Haiti 101

(Associated Press photo)


• Struck Jan. 12, 2010 at 4:53 p.m.

• Measured 7.0 on the Richter scale

• Hit about 16 miles southwest of crowded capital Port-au-Prince, near the coastal city of Léogâne.

(Map from Wikipedia)

• Killed between 46,000 (USAID’s low-end estimate) and 316,000 (Haitian government estimate).

• Injured an unknown number. Initial Haitian estimates were 300,000.

• Stranded millions, with 1.5 million Haitians living in tent camps seven months afterward; that figure had dropped to 550,560 in September.

• Smashed an estimated 250,000 homes and 30,000 commercial buildings including, in Port-au-Prince, the Presidential Palace, National Assembly building, Cathedral of Our Lady of Assumption, and the U.N. Headquarters. Also destroyed were more than 1,300 schools and 50 health-care facilities.

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(Associated Press photo)

• The tent camps are crowded, fetid and dangerous, particularly to women and girls who are targets for sexual assault. Yet there’s little option to go elsewhere. Tons of rubble remain — 10 million cubic yards, down from 20 to 25 — and the few medical and other services offered tend to be in the tent camps.

• Cholera, acute watery diarrhea, has killed over 5,300 people and sickened at least 316,000. The water-borne bacterial disease hadn’t been seen in the Caribbean since the mid-1800s and might have been introduced by foreign workers, including U.N. peacekeeping forces. Half the countries those peacekeepers are from have cholera.

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(Associated Press photo)

• Relief poured into Haiti after the earthquake in the form of dollars and volunteers, but the country had little capacity to shepherd it with its weak, underfunded public infrastructure.

• But reconstruction aid, while pledged and championed by President Bill Clinton, has dripped into Haiti.

• The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, established in April 2010 and headed by President Clinton (who also serves as U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti) and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, aimed to speed up the process, offer transparency, make sure Haiti’s government was included and green-light major ($10 million or more) reconstruction projects. It has approved $330 million in such projects.

• Habitat for Humanity is one of many shelter organizations working in Haiti. These organizations, including Habitat, are members of the UN Shelter Cluster, which was formed soon after the earthquake to coordinate post-disaster shelter activity in Haiti. A full listing of shelter agencies in Haiti can be found on the UN Shelter Cluster’s website.

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Habitat for Humanity has been in Haiti for 27 years. After the earthquake, the organization’s national director survived the office roof and walls collapsing around him. “I saw darkness. I saw dust. I saw people crying,” Claude Jeudy writes in the manual for volunteers. But the organization went into relief-mode and:

  • Distributed over 27,000 emergency shelters (tarps, ropes and tool kits)
  • Distributed over 4,000 upgradable shelters (concrete-block perimeter, timber frame, plywood walls, tin roof)
  • Conducted 12,000 damage assessments on buildings.
  • Trained 3,000 Haitians in construction and 1,400 in financial literacy; helped 700 Haitians find employment
  • Worked with the Simon-Pelé community in Delmas region of Port-au-Prince to survey needs; two community water projects are under construction; street lighting is next; also on the docket is retrofitting earthquake-damaged homes and building permanent homes on vacant land.
  • Prepared site in Léogâne for a 650-home development, most of it built by Habitat volunteers, including Haitian beneficiaries. The project will ultimately include a community center, school, health clinic and recreation field.

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(Associated Press photo)

• Haiti’s infrastructure pre-quake was so weak already and post-quake has made access to land titles and land ownership even more difficult.

• So much rubble remains.

• So many displaced Haitians were renters or squatters whose housing was already dilapidated pre-quake.

• The foreign aid system is complex, cumbersome and slow.

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Sources: Wikipedia, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Haiti After the Earthquake” by Paul Farmer (PublicAffairs, July 2011), Habitat for Humanity.

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