Australia lends Haiti a helping hand in ensuring the provision of safe drinking water
San Jose, Costa Rica, February 7, 2011 (IICA). More than 175 Haitian families will benefit from the construction of cisterns for rainwater catchment and storage, thanks to a project financed by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and aimed at helping to eradicate the public health problems that continue to plague the island a year after the earthquake.
Under Australia’s development assistance program in Latin America and the Caribbean, this is the first project which partners with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) as its direct counterpart, according to IICA Secretary of External Resources, Lars Pira. It is also the first example of trilateral and technical cooperation in international development between Brazil and Australia.
According to Katrina Cooper, resident Australian ambassador in Mexico and concurrent ambassador for Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic, most Australian development assistance has been focused on Asia and Pacific island countries. However, the Australian government has extended its development assistance to other regions, including Latin America and the Caribbean in recognition of the development needs beyond the Asia-Pacific region, and Australia’s ability to help.
The construction of the 175 cisterns in Haiti will have a price tag of A$750,000 (approximately US$747,300), to be provided by AusAID.
This will be Phase II of a project begun last year and executed by the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), in which IICA collaborated in coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development of Haiti (MARNDR) and a nongovernmental organization specializing in the construction of cisterns.
In Phase I, 70 cisterns were built, 60 in domiciles and 10 in schools in Ganthier, a very poor and vulnerable commune in southeast Haiti.
In Phase II, IICA, through its Office in Haiti, will manage the project and will be responsible for all the activities arising from the construction of the cisterns, in coordination with the MARNDR. Given its experience in the process, ABC will provide advisory services.
The MARNDR will determine which families will benefit from the construction of the cisterns, with preference being given to families headed by women , with children, elders and persons with physical and./or mental disabilities.
As part of efforts to improve food security in Haiti, the project is aimed at supplying safe drinking water to urban and rural populations.
Those in urban areas must buy or purify the water they consume. Meanwhile, the population in rural areas does not have the resources required to treat or buy drinking water, so they must take it from wells, rivers, dams, creeks or streams, using it to wash clothes/dishes, for cooking and personal hygiene and as drinking water.
IICA Representative in Haiti, Alfredo Mena, explained that the social component will be of great importance since the beneficiaries will participate actively in the project. Members of the beneficiary families will be trained to assist in the excavations, the preparation of cistern wall panels, and the construction and installation of catchment systems.
They will also receive training in water management and sustainable development harmony with the environment.
The initiative also calls for the training of 40 bricklayers. Each cistern will be constructed in 5 consecutive days by two bricklayers; one recently trained and another with experience, which will contribute to the transfer of knowledge and the quality of the work. All cisterns will be finished before the rainy season begins.
According to Lars Pira, this initiative has the potential to open the door for future joint actions to benefit other countries. In conversations with the Secretariat of External Resources, and reaffirmed by Andreas Zurbugg, AusAID Representative for Latin America, in a recent visit to the IICA Office in Brazil, AusAID is keen to establish strong partnerships with respected organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean to work together on sustainable development initiatives in the future.