I sat for dinner in what I considered a 3-star restaurant in the nicer part of Haiti. Outside the stank from the debris that littered the streets filled the air with a bitter pungent aroma that despite my hunger wiped away any cravings for food.
The waitress brought over a pitcher of water. I was grateful to see it but I wondered where the water came from and whether it was safe for me to drink it.
Then the waitress returned with a pitcher of lemonade. This should be better. Actually worse, I said. At least the water, I can see the squirmies swimming around.
Luckily I carried a water bottle filter with me -- with the capability of filtering over 100 gallons of water.
The pitcher of water brought back memories this summer in the Emergency Room of the Washington Hospital Center, after I ate a chicken salad sandwich at Fiesta DC. I knew food poisoning, but food poisoning didn't get along with me.
A severe water problem exists in one of the poorest countries in the world. Even before the earthquake, this nation was mired in a severe crisis -- lack of clean water for its people of 10 million.
Haitians had to make do with water. They were able tap water from rivers, springs, wells and even water from the city's municipal water system. But the majority of the water was loaded with bacteria, parasites, chemicals, causing dysentery, hepatitis, and typhoid.
It didn't seem fair, that Haiti was losing over 1 million people a year to water-borne illness. At worst, they would succumb to these deadly diseases, at best, they may just get diarrhea. But in Haiti, even diarrheay, where one can get dehydrated, can be deadly.
As we drove around the city, I could see the empty water pipes exposed to sewage troughs. Little boys splashed around happy to get water of any kind, even if it was contaminated.
In Haiti, people eat dirt. They make thin patties which they boil it with butter and spices. Eating dirt is something I would never do, no longer how hungry I get. Eating dirt can make one fiercely sick -- but drinking sewage contaminated water can kill and kill in the most painful, severe way.