Lane Wood : Before the earthquake, a third of Haiti didn’t have access to clean water.
EarthSky spoke to Lane Wood of the New York-based organization charity:water. He said that getting access to clean water has grown even more difficult for Haitians since an earthquake struck the Caribbean nation in January of 2010. Wood said it destroyed the infrastructure of Haiti’s capital city, Port Au Prince.
Lane Wood: There are over a million people that have been displaced. They’re fleeing to these rural areas outside of the city and finding themselves in areas that don’t have clean water.
Haiti’s rural areas, he said, mostly rely on water from polluted mountain streams. He talked about the health impact.
Lane Wood: We know that 80 percent of all disease is caused by lack of basic sanitation and lack of clean water.
That’s according to the World Health Organization. Wood said that charity:water is trying to build what it calls long-term water solutions for eleven rural areas in Haiti which will bring clean water directly to villages. Wood pointed out that the lack of clean water is a problem not only in Haiti, but around the world.
Lane Wood: There are almost a billion people on the planet that don’t have access to clean water. That’s one in eight of us.
A U.N. Report released in March of 2010 said that dirty water kills more people each year than all forms of violence combined – including war. According to the WHO, of the 42,000 deaths that occur every week from unsafe water and a lack of basic sanitation, 90% are children under 5 years old.
Lane Wood: We know that 80 percent of all disease is caused by lack of basic sanitation and lack of clean water. There are 4,500 kids that die everyday from lack of basic sanitation and water…simple diseases like diarrhea.
Or cholera, as of the fall of 2010. But he said, there are some less obvious impacts of drinking dirty water. For example, dirty water can undermine other humanitarian efforts that money and effort have been poured into, like efforts to control AIDS/HIV in Africa.
Lane Wood: They’re going home, they’re taking their medicine with bacteria-filled water, and their bodies are not absorbing the medicine.
Mr. Wood said his charity actually could not function without the expertise of scientists – people like hydrologists and engineers. He said that, in Haiti, the solution is digging wells very deep into the Earth and figuring out how to pump it from the ground. He also said that Haiti has many mountain springs, and figuring out how to ‘cap’ or protect those springs, and then transport their water to a village, can only be accomplished by a technical expert.
Lane Wood: That’s a sophisticated process of dealing with gravity, and trying to get water …up and down the mountains. We work with scientists who know how to make this happen.
Beth Lebwohl researches, writes and helps produce science content in audio and video formats for EarthSky. She is one of the authors on EarthSky.org, a script-writer for our podcasts, and helps host our English science podcasts in 90-second, 8-minute and 22-minute formats. Beth came to EarthSky in 2006 from the American Museum of Natural History's Department of Astrophysics, where she was surrounded by some of the greatest telescope-building, equation-wielding, code-writing physicists of our time. And they made her think . . . this science thing . . . it's pretty cool.