A Haitian's Financial Reality Without Water

by: Meredith Maines
April 18, 2013

It's easy to lose hope in Haiti. Our friend Jean Pierre fights the cycle of poverty every day in Terre Noire.

Hard Work, Little Pay

He works hard in the dry season to provide for his family, making charcoal in one of the most deforested countries in the world. Every five days he burns enough wood to make one sack of charcoal to sell in town—earning the equivalent of $6.

Keeping the Kids in School

Most schools in Haiti are private, though that classification has no bearing on the quality of the education. For Haitian families it just means a tuition fee is required. Jean Pierre dropped out of school after 3rd grade. Now he's trying to make sure that doesn't happen to his own children. But tuition, books, uniforms and activities could add up to $60 a year per child—and Jean Pierre has four of them.

High Cost of Clinic Care

When his children are sick, each trip to the nearest clinic costs Jean Pierre about $20, which doesn't even include the price of medications. And without access to safe water, everyone in Terre Noire is much more susceptible to illness. Kids have fever and diarrhea, while their parents are still unsure of the cause.

The Burden of Unsafe Water

Every day Jean Pierre's family walks an hour to gather drinking water from a river. It's a water source they unfortunately share with livestock. In the dry season, even this contaminated water is scarce, forcing the people of Terre Noire to walk three hours to find it somewhere else or travel into town to buy treated water—about $1.50 for every five gallons. By contrast, an American household uses approximately 300 gallons of water a day.

Jean Pierre Hopes for Clean Water
Jean Pierre dreams of one day having a better school and a closer hospital. He hopes his four children can become engineers, farmers or doctors—something with social responsibility. But without first gaining access to a source of safe water, he lives without hope.

His biography is thus-far indicative of the "bottom billion." Without water, the thirsty like Jean Pierre are among the masses trapped in the lowest cycles of poverty, barely surviving on less than $1 a day. But water will lay the foundation for all other forms of sustainable development—education, health care, careers.

See how Jean Pierre's life story can change with the support of Living Water International's Haitian staff at