Under normal circumstances, each of Port-au-Prince’s estimated 2.5 million residents has to drink a gallon (~3.79 liters) of water a day just to live. But water is also needed for washing and cooking, adding another 3 gallons (~11.36 liters) per person per day. However, actual needs can be much higher, depending on variables, such as the weather, or number of people hospitalized. In reality, the water demand in Haiti per person could very well be much greater.
Although much of Port-au-Prince’s water system was damaged in the quake, the administrator of one large aid agency has contentiously rated water relief distribution as a “success story.” But at the present moment, there is no way logistically for the US military, the Red Cross,and any other organizations to collectively supply 2.5 million people with 15 liters of water each on a daily basis.
According to a quick assessment by our Director of Operation in Haiti, in the five key regions of the capital, only 13 out of 39 areas currently have water. 87 out of 100 water towers are damaged or destroyed, and 50 of International Action’s chlorinators were rendered unusable by the quake.
The Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) is creating a map of the Haiti water system based on information from multiple water sources, including International Action. It lists damaged and functioning water tanks, lines, and valves, as well as numerous internally displaced persons camps. Because this map will have precise data about the water infrastructure in Haiti, it will aid humanitarian efforts to provide water in the wake of the crisis. A February 4th draft of the map is below. A higher quality map can be seen online at the International Action website here.
A shortage of clean water is leaving survivors vulnerable to possibly deadly dehydration and outbreaks of waterborne diseases like dysentery, cholera, and typhoid fever. Bottled water cannot meet this demand, and a calculable shift by relief groups towards favoring purifiers and water drills is underway.
In this Washington Post article Jon K. Andrus, the deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), an offshoot of the World Health Organization (WHO) that is assisting in coordinating the relief response, reflected on PAHO’s priorities, stating, “Water is top on our list.”
According to the SPHERE project, which lists minimum standards in disaster response, one individual needs at least 7.5-15 liters of water a day for basic survival, hygiene, and cooking. This graph, from SPHERE, lists a person’s fundamental water requirements for living.