On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook the city of Port-au-Prince. It was one of the world’s most significant natural disasters on record. Never before had the world seen an earthquake of this magnitude strike an urban setting, and the impact was serious. Two hundred thirty thousand people were killed, 300,000 were injured. In and around the city, buildings collapsed, leaving 1.5 million people homeless. Those who arrived to help in the days that followed the quake say they will never forget arriving into the city just after the earthquake struck. The destruction was everywhere. There were dead bodies lying in the streets, and residents wandering around. It was like a bomb had dropped on the city. But through it all, Haitians showed to have extraordinary resilience through their struggle, and hardship.
The world responded with urgency, compassion, and generosity. Billions of dollars were raised, and aid organizations implemented massive relief and recovery operations. It was, after all, the first independent nation of Latin America and the only country in the world established following a successful slave revolt. It is this inherent fighting spirit that has enabled people to withstand enormous challenges thrown at them. While legitimate questions were raised about overall aid effectiveness and efficiency, there is no doubt that many lives were saved, and Haiti was significantly helped back on the road to recovery. But resilience is not inevitable. Many more struggled immensely to survive. Ten years on from the earthquake, Haiti has actually regressed. The causes are multiple, but negligence and lack of attention are key drivers of the current crisis.
We start 2020 with a country that is both highly vulnerable to climatic disaster and facing a massive — and massively underreported — hunger crisis. Data supplied in October by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) revealed that 3.67 million people need urgent food assistance. Inflation is close to 20 percent, and currency depreciation has been crippling for poor Haitian families.
Not enough seems to be being done. The current annual budget is a fraction of what it was in the post-earthquake period, and the total of donor investment is grossly insufficient. Last year, the UN appeal for Haiti was less than one-third funded by international donors making it among the most under-funded humanitarian crises in the world. The lack of interest, action, and funding is shameful.
In 2010, the world responded to the crisis with speed and extraordinary generosity, but 10 years in this country is in no way adequately prepared for the next one. We can and should do so much more to protect the people of Haiti.
On the bright side, the government seems to be putting positive reinforcements into play as the new year commences.
Though it may not look it from a wide view, these small steps being made now is what we hope will be the foundation of a better environment for our people in the years ahead.