Natural disasters and human emergencies are recurring phenomenon’s that leave disastrous effects in their wake. On 12th January 2010, a major earthquake of a 7. 0 magnitude on the Richter scale hit Haiti. The catastrophic quake centred about 15 miles South West of Port-au-Prince left considerable damage to a majority of towns in the country including the capital city. According to UN reports, of the total 9 million people in the country, the earthquake has affected half of the population. About 222, 570 confirmed dead, with the number of casualties ever increasing (Voigt et al. 2012).
Aftershocks were also recorded after the earthquake that made the situation more complex. An assessment of the response in the wake of Haiti’s earthquake enables us to identify the effectiveness of humanitarian efforts in improving human health and wellbeing in the country after a natural disaster. Response In response to the earthquake, the Haitian government appealed for international assistance. The government focused on search and rescue operations for its survivors including the vulnerable members of the community, for example, the children.
The U. N, donor representatives and the government combined their efforts to offer medical response, facilitate search and rescue operations and communication (Margesson, 2010). The U. N Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) together with the government planned the short-term and longterm recovery efforts with an emphasis on recovery and rehabilitation. The Doctors without Borders (MSF) played a detrimental role in the intervention strategies after the earthquake.
The group prioritized hygiene promotion by distributing tents, cookware and mattresses. Sanitation areas in the camps surrounding Port-au-Prince each composed of a latrine, shower and wash area. Moreover, hygiene was promoted through the distribution of 35,000 hygiene kits that included toothpaste, toothbrush and soap (Skolnik, 2011). The MSF administered measles vaccines for the children, participated in rebuilding medical infrastructure and medical villages for treating the outstanding number of injured people (Skolnik, 2011).
Mobile clinics were a key tool used by the MSF to promote medical response; however, the expansion of the clinics was an issue as medical practitioners became overburdened with the high population of injured people. Despite National and International efforts, hospitals were flooded with victims and lacked the personnel or the equipment to respond effectively. Resultantly, the limited medical personnel and equipment led to secondary complications due to prolonged waiting (Skolnik, 2011). Geographical factors were a key barrier to response efforts.
After the earthquake, there were 14 aftershocks with a magnitude of 5 and 36 more with a magnitude greater than four that occurred a day after the earthquake and went on for weeks Furthermore, the steep slopes and rugged topography that is characteristic of the country’s landscape particularly near the epicentre increased the chances for earthquake-triggered landslides. The potential dangers resulted in the loss of personnel and infrastructure. For example, government officials, international aid personnel and UN officials went missing.
The triggered landslides also posed a potential threat to people on the downward side of the slope (Margesson, 2010). Landing spots for planes carrying urgently needed medical supplies and personnel also became a major challenge owing to the lack of sufficient infrastructure and terrain for landing. Planes diverted to the neighbouring Dominican Republic where the supplies transported later to Haiti by car (Skolnik, 2011). Haiti in the Physical World Owing to its physical location in the world, the country often exposed to a number of natural disasters.
The country is highly vulnerable to storms and hurricanes that tend to disrupt the already fragile infrastructure of the country. A number of explanations have been documented in an attempt to explain the vulnerability of the country, for example, poverty, inadequate infrastructure, deforestation and unstable political system. Furthermore, the lack of resources available to buffer against the effects of these disasters and lack of disaster preparedness has significantly affected the country. In 1980, 25% of the country’s forests existed.
The dense tropical forest enabled the country to withstand the disastrous effects of Hurricane Emily; a category three storm. In 2004, only 1. 4% of the forests remained, with the number decreasing at an alarming rate. Consequentially, deforestation has increased the devastation of tropical storms such as Jeanne and Gordon. In 2004, more than 2,600 people killed due to excessive flooding caused by the tropical storms (Kalayjian & Eugene, 2009). The prevalent natural disasters in the country coupled with the lack of poor infrastructure facilitate the continuity of the vicious cycle of poverty.
The natural disasters damage crops, which eventually affects the income of those dependent on farming. Furthermore, the natural disasters destroy houses, roads and other important infrastructures that are detrimental to improving the quality of life. One of the major ways the government can help the country is by adopting programmes and putting up infrastructures that limit the impact of the disasters, for example, re-afforestation. However, failure by the government to implement such programmes is what contributes to the significant ramifications experienced by the people including economic, emotional and mental consequences.
The Political Environment The uncertainty of the political environment hinders efforts to alleviate poverty and facilitate sustainable development in the country. Investment in disaster preparedness programmes tends to be an issue of political debate. This is because the cost of preventive measures tends to outweigh the benefits during the typical terms served by presidents and governments, which is between 4 to 8 years (Ismail-Zadeh et al. , 2014). Whereas nvestment in disaster preparedness programmes has longterm benefits, politicians tend to inform the public regarding the mitigation proposals while taking their time to implement the same. Another major concern is that the natural disasters tend to affect the poor in the society. The poor have little political and economic influence in the country. Despite the fact that members of the country have an equal vote, the people lack an equal voice in Parliament.
According to a recent report, relief and recovery in Haiti halted owing to government indecisiveness on the part of the donors (Ismail-Zadeh et al. 2014). In my perspective, the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the country have been considerably slow. As the world shifts its attention to other issues, the victims of the earthquake left to live in impoverished housing structures and other issues of poverty. Currently, cases of STD and HIV infections including gender issues and paediatric cases are significantly high. The vicious cycle of poverty seems to be continuous with no end in sight. I believe that the government efforts coupled with international assistance can significantly aid the country in disaster preparedness programmes.
However, intervention strategies can fail due to the politics involved in the issue. The only way the country can benefit is if the government shifts its focus and its efforts towards facilitating the well-being of its people. The inaction and failure to act by the Haitian government and the international governments has resulted in a number of societal issues including health disparities such as disease outbreaks. The Cultural Perspective in Haiti The cultural, socio-cultural traditions and customs of the Haitian people is a major support system that enables the people to cope with natural disasters.
For example, the people have considerable cultural pride and resilience when facing distressing situations. According to researchers, the deep sense of cultural pride can be largely due to their historical brevity when they faced Napoleon’s army (Kalayjian & Eugene, 2009). The deep sense of cultural pride makes them bold when facing challenges in the society. A second cultural value is that the people tend to show kindness and hospitality to strangers regardless of their poverty or situation.
Sharing food is an opportunity to interact with other members in the society and to provide comfort in times of distress. Furthermore, cultural values, traditions, family and community connection are key factors that enable members of the community to cope with the impact of natural disasters. Conclusion The recent earthquake left a majority of Haitians trapped in poverty. Resultantly, the political environment coupled with the economic structure of the country has left the people vulnerable to the disastrous impacts of disasters.
Through the development of infrastructure, education and social support systems, the country’s future could transform positively. Currently, the transport system is poorly developed and commerce in the country is low. The majority of the youths do not have any form of education. The programmes adopted should enable Haitians to strive on their own. In addition, the adoption of disaster preparedness programmes will significantly mitigate the impacts of natural disasters and will enable the country to focus on sustainable development.