Haiti is a small country located in the Caribbean Sea between Cuba and the Dominican Republic. It covers an area of just 10,714 square miles (27,750 sq km) and its capital is Port au Prince. Haiti is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world and it has suffered from years of political, social and economic instability.
On January 12, 2010, Haiti was struck by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that was centered about 15 miles (25 km) from Port au Prince - the most populated area in Haiti. The massive earthquake severely damaged the country's infrastructure, killed over 220,000 people and displaced 1.3 million people. In the area of Port au Prince alone, 188,383 homes were damaged or destroyed. One year later Haiti is still struggling to rebuild and it is currently dealing with an outbreak of cholera and facing political and social instability.
Initial Impacts of the Earthquake
When the massive earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, it was surprising due to its high magnitude. Earthquakes are not uncommon in the region because Haiti is located near the northern boundary of the Caribbean tectonic plate. As such, there is a significant fault zone running through the country. Once the main 7.0 earthquake hit, it is estimated that by January 24, 2010, there were at least 52 recorded aftershocks that were of magnitude 4.5 or higher.
The initial earthquakes as well as the larger aftershocks devastated Port au Prince as well as other towns and settlements like Jacmel. In Port au Prince, several important governmental buildings were destroyed or damaged, including the Presidential Palace, a parliament building and the Port au Prince Cathedral. Most of the city's municipal buildings were also destroyed as were more than 1,300 schools.
Prior to the earthquake Haiti's infrastructure outside of its larger cities was not well-developed. In addition, Haiti had no building codes so buildings and infrastructure were not necessarily built to withstand a large earthquake and thus, when the 7.0 earthquake hit, they were quickly destroyed. Hospitals and other health care facilities were lost and damage to the region's roads made it difficult for rescue personnel to reach the most damaged areas. In addition, telecommunications were disrupted which made it difficult for rescue workers to communicate with each other and the public.
After the earthquake, conditions in Haiti were difficult for its citizens. The thousands who had lost their homes slept in the streets or in their cars and some constructed shanty towns for shelter. There were shortages in fuel and potable water. As a result of these conditions, the Haitian government began moving many of its homeless to temporary camps away from Port au Prince and the Dominican Republic offered temporary medical assistance to refugees.
Humanitarian aid from international organizations like the United Nations also began quickly after the earthquake and search and rescue teams from all over the world travelled to Haiti to aid in its recovery.
One Year Later
Despite all of the international aid, recovery in Haiti has been a slow process. One year later, the country is still struggling to rebuild cities like Port au Prince and Jacmel as well as its medical and political infrastructure. Social problems are also still plague Haiti and its health conditions have deteriorated. For example in November 2010, an outbreak of cholera began in the shanty towns and tent camps in and around Port au Prince. Some estimates say that the outbreak killed more than 580 people and hospitalized over 9,000 in the northern part of Haiti. Cholera remains a concern in Haiti today because of its systems of drinking water and poor sanitation.
In addition to poor health conditions, Haiti also had to deal with severe flooding in some parts of Port au Prince in November 2010 after Hurricane Tomas struck the Caribbean. Many refugee camps outside of the capital in rural areas were quickly flooded by storm surge which further Haiti's hampered recovery efforts.
In spite of these problems though, as well as many others, Haiti has made some progress in its recovery. For example, officials have developed plans to construct affordable housing for the many people who lost their homes in the earthquake. The program is called the Haiti Housing Collaborative and architects from around the world have worked to create six possible designs for the housing units. Other plans to rebuild are also in the works but for the most part, rebuilding has been sparse and remains slow due to a lack of funding and organization internationally and in Haiti itself.
Haiti also underwent presidential elections in late November 2010 and a runoff election was originally scheduled for January 16, 2011 but problems with the first election as well as violent protests in Port au Prince have delayed the election. As such, Haiti is still struggling to regain political and social stability.
To learn more about Haiti and its recovery, visit special Haiti websites from CNN, BBC News and the New York Times.
Katz, Jonathan M. (9 November 2010). "Cholera in Haiti Capital Confirmed." Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/09/cholera-in-haiti-capital-_n_780875.html
Katz, Jonathan M. (5 November 2010). "Hurricane Tomas Floods Quake Shattered Town." Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/05/hurricane-tomas-floods-qu_n_779573.html
Luce, Jim. (30 December 2010). "Architects Announce Six Final Plans for Haiti Housing Collaborative." Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-luce/post_1503_b_802457.html
United States Geological Survey. (28 December 2010). Magnitude 7.0 - Haiti Region. Retrieved from: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/Quakes/us2010rja6.php#details
Wikipedia.org. (5 January 2011). 2010 Haiti Earthquake - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Haiti_earthquake