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Role of the Poor

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Access to water in Haiti

Market constraints affect market structure: Haiti’s water market

Constraints in the market environment affect market structure. Small and informal providers often serve areas where larger, formal enterprises will not operate because of high costs. Take Haiti’s water market where water distribution depends heavily on a functioning infrastructure but building an extensive network of pipelines is expensive. Haiti is one of the world’s 50 least developed countries, ranking 146 of 177 countries on UNDP’s human development index.1 In 2001, 78% of Haiti’s total population—and about 86% of its rural population—lived on less than $2 a day.2 Low economic growth, natural disasters, political instability and poor governance have eroded basic public services.3 As the heat map shows, access to piped water networks is generally very limited: only about a third of Haiti’s urban poor and fewer than a third of its rural poor have access.4

Figure 1. Market heat map for access to water in Haiti

Households with a per capita income of less than $2 a day, 2001

Click on the map and figure for higher resolution versions.

Note: Access to water includes access both to private piped water (inside and outside the house, including from wells inside the house) and to public piped water. Darker shades represent greater access.

Source: Based on Institut Haïtien de Statistique et d’Informatique 2001.

The lack of functional infrastructure and piped water delivery has resulted in a vibrant ‘other’ water market, at least in urban areas. The 45 percent of the population there living on less than US$2 a day has access to water from trucks, bottled water and water by bucket—services typically provided by small, informal vendors.

The same trend appears in many other countries where water provision through pipelines is lacking or nonexistent. Recent estimates suggest that more than one billion people, or about a sixth of the world’s population, lack access to improved water sources. Tapping the ‘other’ private sector could be a practical way to increase access to safe drinking water.

1. UNDP 2007.

2. World Bank 2006, 2007a.

3. World Bank 1998.

4. These figures may differ from those quoted in other literature, mainly because of the different units of analysis and methodology.

5. UNDP 2006; World Bank 2007a. Data on access to an improved water source refer to the percentage of the population with reasonable access (availability of at least 20 litres per person per day within 1 kilometre of dwelling) to an adequate amount of water from a source such as a household connection, public standpipe, borehole, protected well or spring and rainwater collection. Unimproved water sources include vendors, tanker trucks and unprotected wells and springs.