PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (April 30, 2012) — All day long, a steady stream of residents, young and old, line up to fill their buckets with affordable, clean water at the water kiosks of Cité l’Eternel, a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Bejonét Joseph is here several times a day. The 24-year-old single mother moved here two months ago because there were no jobs in her mountain village. She left the baby in the care of her mother so she could come here to find work. The money Joseph earns is sent home to pay for her son's food and clothing.
She spends her days as a maid, cleaning and preparing food for other families. Without the water kiosk, which is just a two-minute walk from the small room she shares with her cousin, Joseph says survival would be much more difficult.
"The water kiosk is good for me because otherwise I would need to travel far to find water," she said.
The water project is run by GRET, a French NGO that receives support from UNICEF. The project targets 50 of the poorest neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince, assessing and mapping water systems, and providing repairs where necessary. There are about 300 kiosks in these neighborhoods, which are connected to the municipal water lines, and their rehabilitation represents a sustainable, concrete move to reduce post-earthquake reliance on expensive water brought in by truck.
Here's how it works: Residents are charged less than two cents for five gallons of water. The money raised pays the city water bill, covers staff salaries to run the water kiosks, and is used to fund small-scale development projects, ranging from sports fields to health centers.
Homéus Jean Rénel heads the local water committee in his neighborhood, the north section of Cité l’Eternel.
"We have a soccer field being built by GRET, plus we have a basketball court," he said. "The program also gave us a new road that drains properly during the rains."
The improvements to the community are especially popular with the children, who finally have a safe place to practice sports and to play.
As for the water, it benefits everyone, young and old alike.
"The program is very important because it is water, and you know, water is the symbol of life," Rénel continued. "Before, there was no water. But once the water program began, there was a better life here."