My name is Loune Viaud and I work in Haiti with Zanmi Lasante for the right to health.
One morning in November 2002, I met Monika Kalra Varma, from the RFK Memorial Center. I made her toast to a long-time commitment to Haiti. Little did she know it was going to be that serious.
Later on, I asked her to look into the reasons behind the blocking of the loan to a life-saving water project in Port-de-Paix. Little did I know it would take us six years to produce this painful report on what we found about this project.
This study was very difficult to do. First of all, none of us had any idea it would take that long and would be that devastating.
I wanted to launch the report in Haiti, in Port-de-Paix to be exact. But, given the political situation after Prime Minister Alexis was force to resign, we thought it was better not to wait for a new government. So we are releasing the report here [in New York City] with the hope of having another launch in Haiti, in the near future.
Why a study on access to water? The right to water? I bet most of the people in this city do not think about this as a right. It is taken for granted every day, several times a day. One needs water to drink, for sanitation, for hygiene, cooking, etc. Just imagine one day without water, here in New York City. It would be a disaster – in the news around the world. It would be outrageous.
Because people go without water in Haiti, we said, why not prepare a report on the IDB [Inter-American Development Bank] and the water project in Port-de-Paix?
It is not because we are against the IDB or the international community; it is not because we have nothing better to do; it is not because we're very angry people and want to take on the US government.
Believe me, I wish I did not have to worry about access to health, to water, to food, to housing, to education: to human rights.
It is because that is what we stand for. We have to stand up for what's right. What is right is for the IDB and the international community to stop playing with the lives of innocent people.
It is because we want the IDB and the international community to make it right. For too long the rights of the Haitian people have been compromised. It is time we take action.
If not us, then who? We did this study and prepared this report to prevent it from ever happening again.
We can't afford not to care. When you and I are not watching, bad things happen to innocent people.
Thank you for your attention and your solidarity.
[published June 2008]