On January 12, 2010, Haiti was hit by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake (Richter scale), which caused devastating damage to its capital, Port-Au-Prince. There is still no consensual official data available, but the International Red Cross estimated that the earthquake affected about 3 million people. The Haitian government reports that an estimated 316,000 had died 300,000 had been injured and more than 1 million residents were left homeless . As a direct consequence of the disaster the social, economical, political, environmental and technological factors all suffered.
Social factors deals with aspects relating to human society and its members in handling disasters to increase the population’s level of education, increase employment rates, reduce poverty, increase the role and participation of decision making of the members of society including women that will support provisions for future events and overall increasing community resilience.
Haiti is a less developed country, with low employment rates, low literacy rate and a high poverty rate. Before the earthquake the country was already in a vulnerable state, but after the disaster occurred whatever little belongings people held also vanished, initiating the country into a state of shock.
After the disaster struck many individuals were displaced, left homeless, forced to live in overcrowded, unhygienic and unsafe living conditions.
Due to these and other traumatic reasons, including sexual assault and violence has taken a heavy toll on the mental health of the Haitian population. Men, women and children were reported traumatic and depressive symptoms following the earthquake. More women than men began to psychological distress as it was reported many had been sexually assaulted in refugee camps, or left as widows and had to take the place of the economic provider. Psychological distress and illness within individuals is dangerous, it does not allow individuals to recover normally. The effects of psychological distress not only impact the individual but impacts people surrounding that individual such as children, spouse, neighbors, relatives etc. It will much harder for these individuals to become employed, raise a suitable family or fit into society without feeling different. Looking at the bigger picture, if even a quarter of the population shows signs of psychological distress it will take the country much longer to recover and become resilient to future events.
Another alarming social factor that surfaced after the earthquake was the lack of knowledge and awareness about earthquakes. Increasing knowledge results in decreasing the vulnerability of people, education the population strengthen communities from disasters and highly effective. Education is a tool, which is used for the development of building community resilience. Education involves the enhancement and knowledge for protecting people, livelihoods, homes and cultural customs from disasters such as the Haiti earthquake. Haiti already had a high poverty rate and low literacy rate, meaning that more than half the population was not well educated. There weren’t many educational institutes to begin with and after the earthquake most of those were destroyed as well. It is important to remember the value of education of schoolchildren cannot be underestimated and indirectly raises the awareness of communities.
Reports show that majority of the students only receive schooling up until the age of 16-17 years. Although children have the opportunity to attend public schools families prefer children to find jobs and help support the household. Families are more reluctant to send girls to school, since it is a social norm for girls to help their mothers with household chore such cooking and cleaning. It is reported that after the disaster struck women were most likely to be affected. This is a result of not being educated, they are left alone and are unaware of how to deal and behave in such situations. Therefore they are taken advantage of and suffer the consequences such as being sexually abused or victims of crime. It is important to empower our women by sending them to schools, involving them in political systems and decision-making processes. Following the disaster many children have been left orphaned and need to provide for themselves. As a result of the disaster children are not focused on their studies but rather focused on finding basic necessities to survive.
According to UN/ISDR, awareness about risks and dangers need to begin in early education, before abilities to address them can become as part of growing public and professional responsibilities as people mature. Education means awareness and the people of Haiti were not aware of the disaster which led them to be unprepared. They did not use mitigation measures such as retrofitting their homes and buildings to withstand earthquakes, nor did they have education and awareness programs for earthquakes. Due to the lack of environmental awareness, Haitians cut down 98% of its original forests for fuel and building materials. In the process they destroyed fertile farmland soils contributing to deforestation, desertification and soil erosion causing periodic flooding making the population more vulnerable to flooding and other hazards. Taking mitigation measure into account can have a great impact and lessen the effects of a hazard. It is said, “Preparation through education is accepted as less costly than learning through tragedy”.
Lastly, even before the earthquake Haiti was a less developed country with low family income and a high poverty rate. Families consist of an average of 4-5 people, since most families are low class access to basic necessities was difficult. Not many families had access to running or piped water, electricity, healthcare and food. But following the disaster, the country was completely devastated the capital, Port-Au-Prince was in ruins its infrastructure was demolished. People did not have access to clean water, food, shelter, medical aid, electricity and other basic necessities unless they were lucky to be in refugee camps set up by international relief agencies. Healthcare services were limited or unavailable to citizens, any people who survived the earthquake later died due to injuries that went on being untreated. The social standing of Haiti after the earthquake became unstable than before. Citizens were unprepared for such a catastrophe, they were unprepared, they did not have an emergency kit or did they have an emergency/evacuation plan.
Citizens had to savage for food and water from relief agencies and surviving became ultimate goal for citizens. That mind-set of the citizens brought along other issues such as violence and crime, which worsened the state of Haiti. In order to survive people began to steal, rob and assault others for money and other valuables. The disaster left people more vulnerable since they were exposed to more traumatic events and felt helpless and unsafe. As well the infrastructure was destroyed and people were unable to access roads or highways, they weren’t able to evacuate to a safer area or travel to medical centers for treatments. All in all, Haiti after the disaster Haiti suffered severe social consequences, whatever progress Haiti had made pre-disaster, all ended and the Haitians had to rebuild their homes from scratch. This was difficult since the economic status of Haiti also took a heavy hit.
After years of political corruption, civil unrest and massive unemployment Haiti was recently enjoying its small measure of stability. The stability spurred hope that economic development might finally end the misery of millions of people living on less than 2 dollars a day. Unfortunately, the earthquake squashed the hopes of millions leaving them worse than before. Using Haiti’s economic and demographic data, damages estimated for a disaster with both 200,000 and 250,000 total death and missing the base estimate is US$8.1 billion dollars, although several reasons expect it be to a higher estimate. The deaths and displacement of thousands of citizens has severely damaged the country’s economic infrastructure.
It may take time before the long-term impact begins to show in the economy. In the short term, the local economy will receive a helping hand from a flood of international aide, including humanitarian relief and infrastructure reconstruction. Although it is unclear what all those efforts will result into in the long run for the economic development. The Inter-American Development Bank assembled $700 million in grants and loans, much of which has been invested in building roads and increasing access to water, infrastructure that was heavily damaged by the quake. The IADB also granted Haiti more than half a billion dollars in debt relief, freeing up more government funding for anti-poverty programs.
Garment exports generated $130 million for the Haitian economy, but that only made up a few points on GDP. To create a suitable path out of poverty, Haiti will need to attract private capital that has fueled the development of emerging economies in the Americas. Rebuilding Haiti’s economy mainly depends on maintaining a level of security that had been restored after years of high crime rates and street violence inflicted by armed forces. In order to maintain that level of security, the political corruption that encourages violence must stop.
Political factors include aspects relating politic parties or politicians in the situation of disaster management. Crime and violence are on the rise in Haiti since prisoners have escaped from jail cells during the earthquake. Gangs and other armed parties are regaining strength in the most vulnerable neighborhoods and spreading to other areas of the city. For instance in the tent camps around Port-au- Prince, displaced people especially women remain vulnerable to crime. These factors have contributed to an increasing sense of insecurity. As political pressures rise in the run-up to elections, political forces fuel violence or disrupt the political process that could again result in assembling armed groups, criminal businesses and vulnerable citizens. The involvement of gangs in criminal and political violence are deeply rooted in Haitian politics, have resulted in widespread poverty, inadequate police presence, government weakness, and social and economic inequities.
Prior to the earthquake, criminal violence had begun to decline due to a combination of political understanding, law enforcement operations and investment in marginalized neighborhoods. But after the earthquake these fragile improvements have been undone and public confidence in the police was shaken. It should remain a priority to direct funds toward mitigating violence and addressing the underlying sources of crime and violence.
The increase in insecurity since the earthquake highlights Haiti’s continued vulnerability to violent crime and political instability. Congested areas are overwhelmed by high poverty and unemployment combined with weak government organizations will continue to be a breeding ground for violence and unlawful activities. As political conflict escalates, these groups can be manipulated by political or economic interests to fuel more instability . Efforts had begun prior to the earthquake demonstrate progress in addressing these challenges and should continue and expand. The combination of improved infrastructure, government services in marginalized areas, jobs and education for youth, and strict law enforcement can reduce violence in these areas, if they are sustained and linked to longer-term development. The Haitian government and international community should direct resources toward mitigating conflict in the short-term while continuing to address the underlying reasons of crime and violence in Haiti.
The earthquake shook Haiti from the roots up and created unforeseen devastating environmental problems in the country that must be attended to. The earthquake worsened the sanitation of the country’s drinking water. Prior to the earthquake, Haiti’s water supply had always been less than hygienic due to many different reasons, and its food supply is being exhausted. Deforestation plays a big part in the sanitation of the drinking water of the country and the lack of food. Before the 1950s, 60% of Haiti was covered in forests but do the rapid urbanization it has dropped to less than 2% today.
Deforestation causes soil erosion problems, polluting the water sources and spoiling fertile farmland. The earthquake created and worsened existing environmental problems. Haiti was already in a vulnerable state and couldn’t handle a disaster that was as high scale as the earthquake. The earthquake increased water pollution, by destroying homes and buildings, causing higher levels of debris to enter the water supply. Interestingly, earthquakes effect forestation and open closed fault lines, which further contributes to soil erosion. The sudden rise in debris, soil erosion and opening fault lines has a direct consequence in lack of fertile land to grow a sustainable amount of food.
Another complication is the earthquake causing a chain of other natural disasters. The lack of forestation and loose topsoil has created other potential disasters, such as landslides and flooding . The earthquake serves as a domino effect, triggering other hazardous disasters. It is important to understand the direct effects of the earthquake on environment of Haiti since it affects the citizens negatively. The lack of food due to insufficient farmlands has lead to starvation and an impoverished society. It has also caused fights and brawls over farmlands since land rights are not properly set and applied. The unsanitary drinking water has caused many diseases including malaria, cholera and tuberculosis severely affecting the already traumatized nation.
Lastly, technological factors also played a huge role during the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Technological factors involve of scientific advances such tools, techniques, product, process and method to disaster management. Warning systems, communication systems and structural measures are all a part of technological factors. Haiti is not a technology-advanced country and does not have the financial resources to invest into warning systems. Although it would be impossible to predict an earthquake, Haiti is still prone to other disasters and installing a simple warning system could save the lives and livelihoods of millions.
Communication systems deals with media and its ability to spread information through education and awareness of people on how to evacuate, locate and relocate. Mass communications was evident during the earthquake since response officials needed to convey information to the public. In the article, “Socially distributing public relations: Twitter, Haiti, and interactivity in social media” reports that moments after the earthquake social media users flooded Twitter, posting inquiries about relief efforts and establishing a good image of the individuals and organizations involved in the recovery process.
Through twitter the public fulfilled its public relations activities and surprising millions on how influential social media is on public relations. Organizations were able to set up charities online and through telecommunications, the public responded quickly by donating money, food, clothes and other basic necessities. As the world becomes more technologically advanced the easier it becomes to communicate and help those who are halfway around the world.
Not only does it bring the world closer together but response officials use highly advanced technological equipment such as geographic information systems used for effective logistics management. Effective communication should be established among key stakeholders since it is essential for a successful recovery .
In conclusion, Haiti took a hard hit from the earthquake, it was affected socially, economically, politically, environmentally and technologically. Although it suffered severe consequences if Haiti follows a well developed recovery plan not only will the citizens be prepared for the next event but will become united and resilient as a community.
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