What's Happening in Haiti: Earthquake and Tropical Storms Devastate Thousands
Haiti is a small nation belonging to the Hispaniola island set. It is bordered only by the Dominican Republic. The Northern tip is 50 miles away from Cuba. The Windward Passage connects the Caribbean to the Atlantic.
Gaining independence from France in 1804, Haiti became the second country in the Americas to do so, preceded only by the USA. Prone to natural disasters, the country has faced several hardships time and again as a result.
What is happening in Haiti?
Haiti is currently suffering due to two severe natural disasters, a high-magnitude earthquake, and a category 3 hurricane, hitting the poorest country in the Americas at once.
1. Earthquakes Wrecks Haiti: 14th August 2021
The early hours of 14th August brought with it a devastating earthquake of 7.2 magnitudes on the Richter scale, wreaking havoc in Haiti. It caused homes, hospitals, and schools to collapse and left several communities facing severe crises. According to estimates by UNICEF, close to 1.2 million lives have been affected by the earthquake, with around 540,000 of them being children.
Rescue missions began almost immediately, with the US military having transported over 200 injured to emergency care. Doctors are struggling with a growing influx of patients, with the current number being estimated at 12,200+
2. Tropical Storm Grace Disrupts Haiti Rescue and Rehabilitation: 17th August 2021
Rescue missions were put on hold as they were disrupted by Tropical Storm Grace, which only intensified the damage caused by the earthquake, with people having no access to shelter, food, clothes, and other essentials as torrential rain battered down on the country. Hurricane Grace tied with Hurricane Karl (2010) to be the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Bay of Campeche.
Houses that are still standing are left empty, either because they have been flooded, or because people fear that it is unstable. Hospitals too are operating under the possibility of the buildings collapsing, making treatment harder, especially with the rains making the situation worse, with an estimated total rainfall of 10 inches.
The current death toll has crossed 2200, with nearly 320+ still missing. Haiti continues to struggle to begin recovery and reconstruction, all while the pandemic continues to spread.
What about fundraising efforts?
Like in the case of every other natural disaster, the world is coming together to raise funds for relief efforts. However, Haiti is facing reluctance from the international community due to the mismanagement of funds in the past.
Several organizations in Haiti claim to be raising funds for a good cause, but the money doesn’t end up reaching the people in need, which leaves humanitarians with the herculean task of managing direct funding.
However, few not-for-profit organizations have been recognized as legitimate and are doing incredible work with the relief efforts and must be supported.
Everyone is doing their part to help rebuild Haiti, governments, international NGOs, philanthropists, common folk, and even gang leaders.
The initial days of rescue efforts involved going head to head against gang members who made it harder for those helping on ground zero to reach there. However, as the death toll worsens, one gang leader has offered a truce.
Jimmy Cherizier, alias "Barbecue," the leader of a gang called G9 Revolution posted a video on Facebook saying that they were offering to maintain peace to ensure the citizens of Haiti get the aid they need, offering a glimmer of hope in a time where gangs are blocking roads, looting aid trucks, and stealing supplies.
The relief mission that has resorted to lower-capacity helicopters due to fear of violence might be able to go back to using high-capacity trucks. However, G9 is far from the only gang in the country, and with a history of past truces not holding up, it is yet to be seen if this move makes a difference, and if the gangs of Haiti would be willing to put the needs of their country first in times like this.
Has something like this happened before?
Yes. In 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, causing similar damage to life and property. The earthquake led to over 200,000 deaths and left the country battling poverty, disease, and a fractured infrastructure. The earthquake essentially decapitated the government and left Haiti struggling in all aspects- their economy, infrastructure, healthcare, and government machinery.
The current situation is eerily similar, with the disasters striking at a time of political unrest after Haiti’s president was assassinated just weeks prior, and the country battling a healthcare crisis due to the pandemic.
What about the pandemic’s effect on Haiti?
During the pandemic, Haiti has reported 184 cases for every 100,000 people and 588 deaths in total. However, healthcare experts say the numbers are bound to be higher owing to the poor healthcare infrastructure of the country.
Haiti was the last country in the entire western hemisphere to receive COVID-19 vaccines when it got the first batch of 500,000 doses of Moderna. This means the country is battling this severe situation with a predominantly unvaccinated population.
While COVID-19 care centers are being set up, the storm has paused all relief efforts, including pandemic-related ones. The currently operational centers are limited only to the western portion of the country, with the southern regions receiving little to no care as a result of the storm preventing outreach.
How do I help Haiti?
Donations are the best and most efficient way to help Haiti. Here are a few legitimate and verified places to donate for multiple causes, from relief, aid to rehabilitation.
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Thank you and take care!
Surabhi Paraki is a Journalism and Communications student at Jain University. She is also an activist and a content writer at the International Youths Organization for Peace and Sustainability.