Haiti Earthquake Research Paper

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Haiti Earthquake

On Tuesday, January 12, 2010, an earthquake of 7.0 on the Richter scale struck Haiti. The Haitian government estimates that over 316,000 people died as a result of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, marking this earthquake as one of the most destructive and fatal in history. The earthquake occurred at approximately 5pm local time and the epicenter of the quake was approximately twenty-five kilometers from the country's capital, Port au Prince. The country (and the Dominican Republic) continued to experience several dozen aftershocks during the remainder of January 2010 that registered as high as 4.5 on the Richter scale. The number of people injured by the quake is the approximate number of people who died from it. More than three times as many people who were injured or killed were left homeless as a result of the quake.

The damage was severe and catastrophic. Thousands of buildings collapsed, leaving unknown numbers of people trapped, and hundreds of thousands of people homeless in the streets. Estimates of casualties are constantly being updated. (Margesson et al., Haiti Earthquake, 2010)

Truly, the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake is stunning. The paper will discuss the consequences of the natural disaster(s) in Haiti that resulted from the quake. The discussion will include a variety of perspectives, including sociological, economic, environmental, and from a perspective of public health. With specific reference to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the paper contends that recovery from natural disasters demands a multifaceted approach as diverse and widespread as the effects of the disaster.

Haiti is a country in the Caribbean that is impoverished. It is a country rich in cultural history and cultural vivacity, but with respect to areas such as technology, economy, infrastructure, and others, the country is in the third world. Therefore, the damages of a severe earthquake are costly to any country, no matter their material wealth and resources, but for a country such as Haiti, the effects are more severe.

Recovery efforts have been made extremely difficult by the loss of personnel and infrastructure that would be part of a recovery effort. Among the missing and dead were Haitian government officials and international aid personnel, including many U.N. personnel. Housing, hospitals, schools, and many government buildings collapsed. Basic services such as electricity and water were almost completely disrupted. Major transportation routes were damaged and/or blocked. The Port-au-Prince airport control tower was destroyed; the airport continued to function, and air traffic control authority was quickly transferred to U.S. personnel with portable radar. (Margesson et al., Haiti Earthquake, 2010)

The Haitian people suffered a great loss of life of their people. Recent statistics suggests that 10+% of the total Haitian population died in the quake or afterwards from injuries directly resulting from the quake.

It requires time, equipment, energy, staff, and money to recover bodies and excavate edifices in search of victims. Many people died and many people were injured.

Damages are estimated for a disaster with both 200,000 and 250,000 total dead and missing (i.e., the range of mortality that is estimated to have caused the earthquake) and using Haiti's economic and demographic data. The bottom line is that for a disaster with 200,000 total dead and missing, in a country with Haiti's observable characteristics, damages are expected to be about U.S.$7.2bn (2009 dollars). For a death toll of 250,000 the estimate would be U.S.$8.1bn. Intermediate numbers give intermediate results. Unfortunately, recent estimates place the actual death toll at the top of this range. Nonetheless, the errors attached to these estimates (obtained via bootstrapping) remain quite large, in part because there are relatively few disasters of this size: while the base estimate may be as high as U.S.$8.1bn for 250,000 deaths, an estimate of U.S.$13.9bn is within statistical error. (Cavallo et al., Estimating damages, 2010)

The medical technology and personnel of Haiti were not properly equipped to handle such an emergency. This is another economic and psychological loss suffered by Haitians because of the quake. Certainly, many people lost family members, friends, colleagues, and other kinds of associates. There are likely very few Haitians that were not affected personally and/or directly by the 2010 quake.

The earthquake itself devastated the country and the effects of the quake include devastation of other sorts. Many cities and towns, especially those closest to the epicenter were nearly leveled. The Haitian people had many struggles because of the quake. Those who were not dead were likely injured. Those who escaped unscathed witness other kids of horrors and impossible situations. There were many people who were without access to clean water and a means of stable communication. Communication problems affected search and rescue operations until additional assistance from international organizations came through, and even then, volunteers and staff had the arduous tasks of searching and assisting survivors.

The earthquake devastated the Haitian people and the world psychologically. The quake was an international press event. Broadcasts of the quake went around the world via television, print, and the web. Many countries may feel sympathy or empathy (like Japan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, or Indonesia) for enduring an earthquake and tsunami. One natural reaction to this kind of situation from an outsider's perspective is to feel pity for the people who were hurt or lost. Some Haitians may appreciate the pity and sympathy, but there are bound to be some Haitians who reject the pity and sympathy as weakness or patronizing.

In the United States, while Haiti has a reputation for being visually captivating and culturally rich, it also has the stereotype for being dangerous, and shabby. The great need for assistance in this situation may feed into negative stereotypes of Haiti. Furthermore, this kind of loss is exceptionally difficult for any country, culture, and society to endure. The extent of the damage and the future journey to rebuild may seem insurmountable, endless, and/or hopeless to some Haitian people, especially for those who suffered a lot of loss, such as their whole family, home, and business all at once (as is the case in reality). This kind of psychological and emotional trauma can have lasting affects on the mental health and physical health of Haitians. There are surely people suffering from forms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety or panic attacks, and other psychological or emotional disorders as a result of the quake & the aftermath.

From a perspective of public health, the earthquake is an urgent concern. As aforementioned, many people were in need of clean water for drinking and to clean wounds. There were more than 1,000,000 Haitians with physical injuries that necessitated immediate medical attention. That is more than 10% of the national population. Haiti is a country where diseases such as Hepatitis (A & B), malaria, and typhoid fever are pre-existing problems. With the earthquake, people with these diseases increased, some died from lack of treatment or injuries sustained that led to death, and the spread of these diseases and others increased. Healthcare has always been a prominent and diverse issue in Haitian culture:

Half of the Haitians do not have access to formal healthcare (CCMU, 2006). The rural population accesses primary health care thanks to faith-based NGOs, and mainly refer to traditional healers. Among all classes, emotional matters, and psychiatric uneasiness are dealt with within the family, or religious context. Lower class Haitians will generally seek help from houngan (traditional spiritual leaders) and only turn to mental health professionals if behaviour is already unacceptable within their context. Upper class Haitians are more likely to refer to a combination of herbalist care and prayers (McGill University, 2010). (Schinina et al., Psychosocial response, 2010)

People suffered from dehydration, diarrhea, dysentery, and bacterial infections. The earthquake additionally damaged the system of roads throughout the country, making search, rescue, and medical operations more challenging. Again, from the public health and sociological…

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