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A new way to deliver water

Haiti, June 28, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nancy Farese for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Mercy Corps has helped set up water vendors to provide water to 12 camps. Families receive vouchers for water. Photo: Nancy Farese for Mercy Corps

Water is available to families living in camps, but it can take 30 minutes on foot to reach a vendor — and often they sell water that is not clean. To address this issue, Mercy Corps has helped set up vendors to provide water to 12 camps and we’re distributing vouchers that families can redeem there. This voucher system is an improvement over delivering water to camps by truck because it reinforces economic structures already in place and, in some cases, helps form a water market where there wasn’t one before.

Here’s how it works: Mercy Corps identifies a water vendor near the camp and ensures that the vendor can sell enough clean water to meet the camp’s needs. In some cases where there isn’t already a vendor, we find a nearby household that has access to water and is interested in starting their own business.

Mercy Corps gives every family in the camp vouchers to exchange for 10 gallons of water a day. Vouchers are distributed weekly. At the end of the week, Mercy Corps pays the vendor for all the vouchers redeemed.

The voucher program’s strength is in its sustainability — we’re creating a market-based system to distribute water. And it’s a system that will stay in place after Mercy Corps leaves.