An inside view in Cuba’s constant struggle for clean water

In one hand Manuel Reyes Estrada filled a form and a pencil, in the second bucket small fish and a plastic Buchanero beer cup. “It’s like this,” he said. “We, the health brigade staff, are only allowed to write with pencil.” His superiors, he explained, use pens. In the afternoon, senior officials visited homes where health brigade staff have worked earlier in the day – “to check if we did our job well.”

Manuel paused for a second on the unpaved road in the Cuban city of Holgwin to fill the house numbers on his free form. He sweated the sweat away from his face.

Every day in cities across Cuba, a vast array – from workers and inspectors to truck drivers and pipe layers – take to the streets in a coordinated effort to provide clean water to their fellow citizens.

Among other responsibilities, health workers conduct a detailed inspection of roof water tanks, ensuring that the water is clean and free of mosquito larvae, which will help prevent the transmission of tropical diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and zika.

The efforts are part of an analog, labor intensive solution Nandi society at large.

A significant portion of Cuba’s available drinking water is lost through its leaky and archaic pipelines – more than 50 percent, by Some guesses.

In recent years, infrastructure problems have been complicated by droughts and rising temperatures. For most of the population, running water is only sporadically available – in some cases, every day for an hour or two for a few days. While it flows, residents store available water in cisterns or tanks, which then serve as a potential breeding environment for mosquitoes.

Manuel ignored the barking dog as he entered the house. A woman wearing a curler in her hair showed them a spiral staircase, which leads to the roof. After locating the building’s water tank, he used a small mirror to illuminate its shady interior.

Using a plastic beer cup, Manuel poured five small fish from his bucket into the water tank. “Usually we use Abate,” he said, known as a larvicidal Tamifoss, Used to treat water. But the chemical was not available, he explained, and so the fish, which eat the larvae, are employed as a natural – If complicated – the option.

With a background in anthropology, I have long been interested in how people live and manage their everyday challenges.

During previous visits to Cuba, I noted the daily struggles for fresh water: people troubled by water pumps, roads soaked by street pipelines, frequent water trucks on the streets. Born and raised in the Netherlands, where clean water is taken for drinking, I did not expect water shortages on the tropical island.

In February 2019, the Cuban people voted Ratify a new constitution, Which enshrined the right to clean water, among many other provisions. I decided to make this constitutional right a starting point for a project on Cuba’s low water crisis.

I traveled to Cuba for six weeks in April and May 2019 and four more weeks in January 2020. On the first trip I learned how different areas experience different problems – and find solutions. I also ascertained how many professions were involved in providing water to the residents.

By shading the various workers guaranteeing water use in different parts of the island, I began to see a cross-section of contemporary Cuba.

For example, in the city of Trinidad, I met Alexis Alonso Mendoza, who described himself as “the greatest man in the city”.

Trinidad is divided into several districts, each of which typically has two hours of water running every five days. As the “key to water,” Alexis is responsible for underground sluices that change the direction of water within the city.

using the Offline map, I am located in small clinics called polyclinas, where at 8 in the morning, inspectors and fumigators of the health brigade gather before dispersing into the streets.

I boarded several water trucks, called Pipas, which supply water in the event of a broken pipeline or insufficient pressure – or when the work pipeline bus is not present.

Many of the drivers were enough for me to know how to fill their trucks and deliver water. I first saw the bureaucracy involved – and the endless time it takes for drivers to wait to fill their tanks.

I also took aim at the horses that carried water across the city, and saw how the hump – with the simplicity and completeness – of fixing their water hoses and pumps to whatever material they had available tried.

It is difficult to know the full effects of the epidemic on Cuba’s water crisis. For 2020, the country controlled the virus extensively, but due to lack of tourists The worst food shortage in almost 25 years. Increased dramatically after infection Lockout removed And the country’s borders were opened in November. Since then, additional stress in the public health system may be observed, fumigation, and distribution.

On his way back to Polyclinica at the end of one of his shifts, Manuel, who had worked for the health brigade for 13 years, reflected on his work. He was happy, he said, “to contribute to the health of my compatriots.” But he also enjoys talking – meeting people, talking. “Often they invite me for coffee,” he said.

A person on the bicycle congratulated him for riding. “Manuel, can you bring me some fish tomorrow? I’ll get you some cigars in return. “

Later, Manuel passes his supervisor. “You know the greenhouse in the corner, where the elder woman lives alone?” They said. “I found a mosquito larva in the lower tank in the courtyard.”

“Okay,” his supervisor replied. “I will send fumigators to smoke them. See you tomorrow, mi farewell. “

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