THE HAITI EARTHQUAKE:
UNITED STATES LEADS AN INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE AND RECOVERY
President Obama promised that Haiti would have the “unwavering support” of the United States. Mr. Obama said that the United States aid agencies were moving swiftly to get help to Haiti and that search-and-rescue teams were en route. He described the reports of destruction as “truly heart-wrenching,” made more cruel given Haiti’s long-troubled circumstances. “This is a time when we are reminded of the common humanity that we all share,” Mr. Obama said. (Romero, 2010). On January 12, 2010, a massive earthquake – arguably the worst quake in over 200 years – struck the tiny country of Haiti. Haiti, a country that is roughly the size of Rhode Island, shares the island of Hispaniola, and sits on top of a seismically active region. The amount of devastation was akin to the damage done to lower Manhattan after the attack on the twin towers, except that the damage stretched across an entire country. Listen to a first hand account of the suffering: “Things are very crazy here. I arrived in Haiti one hour before the earthquake hit. I came home and I was starting to unpack my bag when the house starting dancing. I was thrown from one side of the room to the other. We went out on the street, there were so many people running, there was a big cloud of smoke, a gas station had exploded, it was like a movie scene. After that we stayed in the house to try and understand what was going on. Other small shocks happened, so we went outside. I started getting phone calls from Haitians, many problems, people that couldn’t get to their house, people whose family were stuck, even people that died. “Right now I just came back home. I went to find some water. We need to stock up. There is a lot of chaos in this city. All the major buildings have collapsed, including the palace, the main church, the other churches, there is a university with more than 1,000 students, most of them dead or trapped. “We don’t see anybody doing anything. The police don’t have enough men. What I saw was cars going in every direction, people stealing from stores, people walking with dead family members in their arms, people asking for help in the hospital, everywhere destroyed. “Apparently the prison collapsed, so many bandits escaped and many are dead. “For 20 minutes I was out, I saw four or five situations where looting was going on. One of them I was passing, because I am a foreigner, they became a little aggressive, and I had to drive away because they were coming after me.” Andre Davila Brazilian, aid coordinator. (New York Times, The Sunday Times, 2010). Immediately after the earthquake, the Secretary-General of the United Nations called for a massive, international response. “Clearly, a major relief effort will be required,” Secretary –General Ban Ki-moon told an informal meeting of the UN General Assembly. (UN News Centre, 2010). This paper will discuss the extent of the earthquake, examine the quality of the response efforts, and evaluate the recovery plans to get this small, troubled, but proud nation back on its feet. Haiti: Before the Earthquake
Haiti has been plagued by political violence for most of its history. After an armed rebellion led to the forced resignation and exile of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, an interim government took office to organize new elections under the auspices of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Continued violence and technical delays prompted repeated postponements, but Haiti finally did inaugurate a democratically elected president and parliament in May of 2006. (CIA, 2011). Haiti is a troubled country, even before the earthquake. It is important to mention this because some of the response and recovery efforts have been hampered due to the unstable nature of the Haitian government. While it is true that an earthquake of...
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