CRISES, EMERGENCY OR DISASTER (CEDS) - HAITI EARTHQUAKE (2010(
The 2010 catastrophic Haiti earthquake took place on 12 January. The earthquake left a wave of destruction and death. Over 200,000 people died while over 300,000 were injured and over one million more were rendered homeless. The catastrophic earthquake caused damage and devastation in a country that was previously poor. According to UNDP, Transparency International (2009), Haiti was facing political instability, widespread poverty and poor governance as most of other third world nations. The country lacked necessary infrastructures to deal with the disaster and had to rely heavily on international aid to deal with the resulting humanitarian needs. Haiti has high unemployment levels, most government institutions are poor and it faces environmental degradation. The country also has high insecurity and violence levels making the country very delicate (CDA 2010). The country is ranked twelfth among the world’s Failed States according to a report by Fund for Peace (2009). According to Rice and Patrick (2008), Haiti is ranked 129th out of 141 in reference to State Weakness among the Developing world. The population of Haiti is predominantly poor. Over 75% of the entire population lives below US$ 2 a day. In 2009, the country was ranked 149 out of 182 in the UNDP (2009) humanitarian development index. Humanitarian aid for the country has continued to increase over the years. In 2008, the country received about US$ 175 million (Coppard 2010). Haiti has a high population density with most people about (45.6%) living in the urban centers in the year 2007.The poor economic standards of Haiti has forced the country to be susceptible to humanitarian crisis.
Effect of the earthquake on the local population:
Haiti has experienced various disasters over the years. They include landslides, floods, storms hurricanes earthquakes and Tsunamis. The county has recorded over 18,000 deaths, about 4,708 injuries and about 132,00 homelessness between the years 2001 and 2007. In 20008, the country witnessed hurricane Fay, hurricane Hanna and hurricane Ike. The hurricanes left awake of destruction and death. It affected over 1 million people. The effects cost the country 15% of its GDP. The country is venerable to hydro-metrological disasters as it is located in a seismically active region. The country has not experienced a major earthquake for over 200 years.
The effects of any disaster are different depending on the population of where they occur. The effect vary as a result of economic system, preparedness, livelihood strategies, availability of resources to deal with the disaster, population density and both the expectations of the government and those of the public.
When a disaster happens in urban areas, the effects are bound to be more severe. In Haiti for example, most people live in the urban areas. This causes urban areas to experience wide range of effects both socially and economically. The tall building and poor infrastructures is contributor to the adverse effect. Disasters cause adverse destruction of both the natural and manmade environment. They lender people homeless and expose them to humanitarian crises like overcrowding and sanitary issues. This may cause diseases outbreak. People who are left homeless can only rely on the government to take care of them. According to Jutkowitz, King and Pierre (2006, 32), Haiti urban population tend to rely more on the government to offer solutions. Haiti earthquake posed a major challenge to the government and it made appealed for Humanitarian aid from international countries and organizations.
International Aid and Response
Initially the response foreign countries were slow. The Haiti government under President Rene Prevail tried to manage the situation by providing assistance to people who wanted to go back to the rural areas. The government also allowed people to bring goods to the country without paying tax. The government also offered leadership during the crisis management. It assisted in the recovery process. The local government, religious groups and the local communities were also working closer with the government in order to solve the humanitarian crisis (Oxfam, 2010). Various factors were cited as the reason for the delayed involvement in the disaster management. They include
- Challenges on how to work with the cluster (ICG 2010)
- Poor infrastructure that hindered access to the operation point
- Communication problems due to linguistic differences
The teams on the ground were working very hard to avert more deaths and other humanitarian crisis. The Haiti earthquake so the involvement of USAR (urban search and rescue) team. The earthquake disaster led to the deployment of a record 53 USAR
The teams worked successfully rescued 211 people who had been trapped inside the rumbles of the collapsed building (Grünewald and Renaudin 2010). . the team used the experience it had gained when dealing with the 2008 hurricane to revive the clusters. This was done by the Humanitarian County Team and it lead to swift, smooth operation.
When the international community responded to the appeal by the president, they came in large numbers. This created a challenge of coordinating the teams. The international organizations and NGOs faced difficulties in the region due to the limited knowledge and understanding they had about Haiti (Grünewald and Binder 2010). To overcome these challenges, two NGOs formed an On-site Coordination Centre to coordinate the activities of the Operations. During the start of the rescue operation, most NGOs were based at the Minustah Log Base where the sanitary and hygienic issues were becoming a challenge. They were living in tents and holding logistical meeting was becoming a challenge, as interruptions were very frequent. Though the initial surge capability was vital in giving support to the organizations, the impact of short-term staff had not been evaluated. Coordination was also hampered by organizations such as International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) who wanted individual recognition alongside American Council for Voluntary
Logistical challenges became a major barrier in coordinating the humanitarian operations. The port was severely damaged while the airport operated above its capacity. Due to the incoming aid, the tracking systems in various ports had been over stretched. This cause most of the goods coming in to the country to go bad before reaching the intended destinations
Security and civil-military coordination
The Haiti earthquake also affected the security sector of the country. Apart from losing the interim UNPOL Commissioner, the sector also experienced 77 deaths and 253 injuries to the HNP officers (MINUSTAH, 2010). To manage the security of the rescue team, the United Nation’s department of safety and security restricted movements’ beyond the Port-au-Prince airport which had been set as a logistical base (Grünewald and Renaudin 2010).
In the aftermath, there were claims of looting and sexual violence. According to the ICG (2010), the media exaggerated these events. In a survey carried in March the same year (2010), it was found that most people living in camps felt insecure. Their insecurity emanated from various cases of rape, violence, and the emergence of gangs and the presence of jail escapees. The earthquake also caused insecurity among the young people as over 100,000 were left without families (MINUSTAH 2010). Not only were the children exposed to physical insecurity but also to emotional insecurity as they did not have someone they could rely on to help them achieve their dreams or even someone who could provide for their needs (Republic of Haiti 2010).
The earthquake also left init wake over 5,000-disability cases which include about 400 tetraplegia cases Republic of Haiti 2010). Victims were also left exposed to various forms of abuses due to congestion, poor lighting (IRC 2012). Women and young girls were left exposed to violence, and hence the Human Response Working Group advocated for improved access to shelter, food and for provision of separate sanitation. As well they advocated for improved lighting. MINUSTAH, OCHA and partners established a joint tasking and operations platform on the 26th Jan where humanitarian community requested assistance from the military and the police. United States of America and the Republic of Canada sent its military to help the relief and recovery efforts.
After the tragedy, a flash appeal was made within three days where it sought to raise US$575 millions. The appeal was published worldwide more quickly than usual due to the enormous impact of the disaster. One month later, the initial flash appeal was revised after having being fully funded by individual donations, official governments’ aid and NGOs collections. The flash appeal was revised on the 18th to a complete humanitarian appeal to run for one year and targeted to raise US $ 1.4 billion to be used by the aid organizations in Haiti. The response to the initial appeal was so successful that within the first 72hrs from the tragedy, the Central Emergency Response Fund released US $ 25 million to help respond to the crisis. By the end of April, CERF had disbursed approximately US $36.5 million to help the victims of the tragedy. High level conferences were held to discuss the crisis starting with one in Montreal and an international donor’s conference in New York. These conferences sought to prepare for donations which would be given to the Haiti people. In New York, US$ 9.9 billion donation was pledged in a multi donor trust fund which had been established. The world donated fully where half the American Households were reported to have donated. By 23rd March, the U.N Office of the Special Envoy reported that the private donations were US$ 867.781 million, and later hit the US$ 1billion mark to help the Haiti earthquake victims (AFP 2010)
There was an urgent need to assess the humanitarian situation after the earthquake. UNOSAT and Google Earth were the first to carry out the damage assessments where they provided an approximation of the damage and number of people displaced. They also provided information for the initial flash appeal (Grünewald and Renaudin 2010). Later in the same month, ACAPS (assessment capacity of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Needs Assessment Task Force) conducted subsequent assessments looking on NFIs (non-food items), food security and nutrition, shelter, WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene), health and related issues.
The assessments done ad faced several limitations thus wasn’t full proof, an issue attributed to the following factors:
i. They used questionnaires which lacked complete adaptability to Haiti’s disaster context.
ii. The interviews which were originally carried out in Creole language were a translated to French thus possible changes might have taken place.
iii. The questionnaire was so long and involving, requiring approximately three hours to fill out as it was a 12 pages document.
iv. There were incomplete datasets which occurred as a result of uncompleted surveys due to transport constraints.
Information regarding the recovery and response and the operational data were shared on an inter-cluster web site known as ‘One Response’ which served as an online platform to the affected community. New technologies were used alongside other common communication forms and media coverage. The social media networks were also used to coordinate collaborate and act upon the information submitted by the Haiti citizens who were affected by the tragedy. Such networks included: Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and YouTube.
An Emergency Information System (EIS) was set up by the Thomas Reuters Foundation and was used to report the missing people as well as food and shelter issues (Large 2010). The Haiti’s women groups which had been consulted during collection of information felt that the issues they had raised had not been sufficiently reflected in the PDNA. As a result, they published the Gender Shadow Report 2010, Haiti.
The earthquake interrupted the health issues of Haiti nation including the HIV/AIDs programs in a country considered to have the most severe HIV epidemics in the Caribbean states. Campaigns have however been done in the country to reduce the infection rates and control the prevalence of HIV/AIDs (Furnish2010).
Haiti is highly vulnerable to other disasters which usually affect the displaced persons in both rural and urban areas. Among the environmental issues the country face are soil erosion, overused land, and population as well as health epidemics due to poor life quality in the overcrowded areas (UNEP 2010). The earthquake worsened the situations with a large part of the respondents to the Oxfam survey 2010 blaming the environmental issues for the huge damage incurred during and after the earthquake (Pierre 2010)
On the wake of January 12, 2010, Haiti was faced by one of the most severe natural tragedies on it is history. It was hit by a high magnitude earthquake which left an excess of 200,000 people dead, almost double that number nursing injuries and over one million homeless. Such natural disasters have got adverse effects on both rural and urban areas worldwide. The earthquake hit the urban centers destroying the multi storey buildings, the infrastructure, fire safety and other hazard issues. Many people were displaced posing a threat to their livelihood and leading to overcrowding in camps which had poor sanitation. This resulted to out breaks of diseases like cholera and other hygienic diseases.
The world came together to help the people and government of Haiti. The Haiti administration led the people in their jurisdiction and helped in recovery and other aids. They collaborated with the international organizations like Red-Cross, religious outfits and other local grassroots organizations to lender a helping hand to the citizens. However, the great number of NGOs involved led to a coordination crisis on the humanitarian response. The organizations also faced other problems like communication, health issues and disrupted health programs, security concerns and disrupted infrastructure.