Sister to the Dominican Republic, Haiti is a Caribbean island nation of immense natural beauty – but is also known for being stricken with political unrests and natural disasters. After the devastating earthquake in 2010, which destroyed infrastructure and left thousands homeless, hurricane Mathew struck in 2016 and lead to almost complete crop failures in parts of the island. According to the World Bank, 750,000 citizens are without access to safe water, making cholera outbreaks frequent, especially in impoverished areas struck by disaster. Water and sanitation are indeed at the heart of the humanitarian crisis in Haiti. While classical humanitarian aid is of course indispensable in satisfying the most pressing needs, it is often not leading to a sustained welfare of people. In order to provide basic human needs in an ongoing way, it seems most effective to give ownership of relevant solutions into the communities affected.
Helping by empowerment
This philosopy has been taken up by DLO Haiti (DLO stands for de l’eau in local creole, which means water). The business model is based around the implementation of ground water treatment units based on robust technology (RO, UV, Chlorine) which provide safe potable water (see picture). Operation, selling and distribution is completely in the hands of the local community and is in many cases combined with the sale of other items of everyday use such as sanitary products, food etc. Launched in 2013, dloHaiti currently serves communities with over 300,000 people through 500 sales points served by 9 water treatment and distribution hubs across the island. Production and sales of water are financially sustainable and the distribution and sale of fast-moving consumer goods are growing. dloHaiti employs over 100 local staff and helps increase the incomes of over 500 micro-enterprises in the country. In this way they have established a recognized brand that stands for safe and affordable water. The company is now working towards expanding the approach to other developing countries where water quality is an issue, under the name “Untapped”.
Swim for Haiti – Watering minds
The supply of safe drinking water to schools is another critical issue that is being addressed in this context: Jim Chu, US based former tech-entrepreneur and founder of dloHaiti set up the swim for Haiti 5 years ago as a way of raising money to teach to swim and put Haiti on the map as a place to visit. Today the charity’s earnings are supporting the provision of clean water from dlo’s operations to schools under the name “watering minds”. Isle Utilities, who has also invested in dlo through its foundation REEF (Revolving Economic Empowerment Fund) has been taking part in the swim for the last 4 years and was represented with a team of 6 swimmers this year (see picture). All in all there were 32 swimmers from the US, Germany, UK, Canada, Ireland and Haiti. The “Athletes” set off at 6.15am by boat to the islands. The swim started at 7am for the long 10km back to the Wahoo Beach. For safety, each person had a fisherman who paddles alongside. They were there to help guide and carry drinks and food. The swim took place in warm Caribbean seas and for the most part it was calm and clear with idyllic views of the coast line. There will be a swim in 2019, so those with a sense of adventure should seriously consider the trip – you won’t be disappointed!
For more information about the event and the project, please visit: www.dlohaiti.com ,www.untapped-inc.com and www.swimforhaiti.org. Authors: Dr. Bastian Piltz, Technology Consultant at Isle Utilities BV and Dr. Ben Tam, Head of Business Unit Strategic Projects at Isle Utilities Ltd.