By Susan Davis, Executive Director, Improve International
Seeing the glass as half empty is more positive than seeing it as half full. Through such a lens the only choice is to pour more. That is righteous pessimism. ― Criss Jami
I firmly believe that governments are responsible for providing services to their citizens. Humanitarian and development organizations can play a role in helping governments use their scarce resources wisely and to do their jobs better. There are some great examples of governments taking charge of coordinating the external and internal non-governmental efforts to improve quality and effectiveness. One I’ll celebrate today is Haiti.
At the UNC Water & Health Conference in October, I heard Myriam Léandre Joseph speak. She is with Haiti’s National Direction of Potable Water and Sanitation (DINEPA), which was established in 2009 to regulate the water sector. Ms. Joseph said that 20% of the population gets its water from an unprotected (likely contaminated) source. After the earthquake in 2010, many organizations swooped in with water treatment products, which were of variable quality. With funding and support from the US Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF, and CAWST, Haiti now requires water treatment products to be tested and registered.
DINEPA is now doing project evaluations. Ms. Joseph gave one example where they evaluated biosand filters. Of 22 households visited, only 8 were using their filters; two of the water samples were contaminated, meaning the filter wasn’t working or was being used incorrectly.
DINEPA has also trained 36 rural department unit technicians to analyze and evaluate treatment products and projects submitted for registration. Once this is fully rolled out across the country, any citizen in Haiti can expect that the water treatment product they use will be high quality and keep them from getting cholera and other waterborne diseases.
This is a great example of outside experts helping experts in the developing country and the government taking control.