PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI .: JANUARY 17, 2010 – A view of the National Palace from a Canadian Forces helicopter in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, January 17, 2010. (Tyler Anderson/ National Post) (For National) //NATIONAL POST STAFF PHOTO
So, a month ago, the earthquake that shook Haiti on January 12, 2010 was indisputably the largest and most deadly natural disaster to ever hit Haiti, to ever hit the Caribbean and to hit the entire western hemisphere. The death toll estimates are truly uncountable and horrendous.
On October 4, Hurricane Matthew gave the earthquake a “run for its money” as to the worst natural disaster to hit Haiti. The initial loss of life is substantially lower but that has to do with the nature of the disaster and what it means going forward.
The earthquake was immediate and virtually all of the damage was done that first night. The Hurricane has damaged infrastructure, agriculture, farmland, water supplies and those will be felt for years to come. I have heard people on the ground in southern Haiti who have estimated that it will take upwards of 10 years to restore Southern Haiti to where it was in terms of agriculture, livestock, housing and health care.
After the earthquake, reporters could fly into Port Au Prince and the damage was right there. Depending on which way their plane came into the airport, they could probably see the damage from the air. With the Hurricane, if you land in Port Au Prince, you have a multi-day drive/trek to be able to reach hard-hit places like Jeremie and Dame Marie.
After the earthquake, there were many people, both in Haiti and in the first world, who said, “OMG, what do we do?” We had never been involved in a natural disaster, especially one of this magnitude before. There is no FEMA in Haiti. There is very little in terms of governmental oversight and infrastructure to help cope with a disaster. Many of us remember the picture of the Presidential Palace in Port Au Prince and the emotional impact that the destruction of that building had. Virtually everyone wanted to do something, so what did they do? They threw money at the problem. Some of the money was a big help. Some of the money did not get where it should. A lot of the money didn’t do what it was supposed to. http://time.com/3908457/red-cross-six-homes-haiti/
The Red Cross built 6 houses with $500,000,000 in donations. A friend of mine runs a company in Port Au Prince and they built 13,500 “starter homes” after the earthquake – on a whole lot less than $500 Million.
Now, after the Hurricane, things are different this time. What’s different?
- The scope and the type of disaster is different – rather than urban and destruction of big city and loss of life, it’s rural, loss of farming, loss of income, loss of clean water, disease and starvation.
- Organizations are working together a lot better this time. People are okay with saying, “that’s not who we are or what we do, so let’s help those who are experts at that.”
- The importance of involving Haitians, Haitian organizations and buying locally wherever possible are of significantly more value than they were 6 1/2 years ago.
What’s the same?
- A country that has, for various reasons which we’ll address later, not developed the ability to bounce back has been hit with another devastating natural disaster.
- There are many people who need help.
- The help that is needed is both immediate disaster relief help and also long term job creation economy building social justice type of help.
I’ve talked to many people who feel that Hurricane Matthew has been very hard psychologically because it has brought back a lot of memories from the earthquake. So the earthquake has prepared people, helped them do disaster relief better, play nice more often and yet still extracts a terrible long-term toll on a country that can hardly bear the load.
More to come,
We are still accepting donations to help housing and farming initiatives mostly in the area of Les Cayes. For more info on how to help click here