Supporting the public provision of potable water in a crisis context: GRET’s operations in Haiti following the earthquake of 12 January 2010
Emilie Barrau and Jean-Philippe Fontenelle
GRET is a development NGO which has been providing support to public authorities and community organisations for more than 15 years to establish the provision of potable water in the poorest neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince. Following the earthquake of 12 January 2010, it found itself in an emergency context which completely disrupted its activities and modified the environment in which it was working. How did a development NGO present for so many years in Port-au-Prince position itself in relation to this extreme emergency context? What relations did it have with other actors both in terms of complementarity and competitivity and what added value did it bring? What operational principles did it adopt in a context where it was difficult to carry out long-term development activities?
GRET had been present in Haiti for more than 15 years, providing support to the public au-thorities to establish a public water service in the poorest neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince, when the earthquake of 12 January 2010 took place. It found itself in an emergency situa-tion which completely disrupted its activities and forced it to revise its positioning.
GRET accompanies long term development and supports the evolution of public policy in numerous countries. It is therefore not its usual activity to take direct action in emergency contexts brought about by natural disasters on this scale . However, having been a long-term partner of public sector organizations working in the potable water sector in Haiti and of communities in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, for whom it has worked to improve access to water and collective organization, GRET immediately took action to provide local actors with support.
How did GRET, as a development NGO which has been present for many years in Port-au-Prince, position itself in this emergency context, between local institutions and social actors, international emergency relief NGOs and donors? What relations did it have with other actors both in terms of complementarity and competitivity and what added value did it bring? What operational principles did it adopt in a context where the focus was a rapid response to a tragic situation in which it was difficult to build institutional mechanisms and long-term development action.
 In the past, GRET has carried out programmes in post-crisis and economic recovery situations, for example in Cambodia, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Occasionally it is confronted with more or less large scale crises in certain countries where it is present (for example, food crises following recurring drought in the region of Adroy in Madagascar or the crisis in Myanmar caused by cyclone Nargis).