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On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, causing more than 222,000 deaths and in excess of 300,500 injuries. Immediate humanitarian assistance poured in, offering food, supplies, and shelter from across the globe. At the height of the disaster, 1.5 million people were living in 1,354 spontaneous settlements, surrounded by some 10 million cubic meters of rubble. Some 2.3 million people were displaced.
Two years later, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the country still faced significant challenges; half a million people still lived in camps, and only half of the rubble had been removed. In addition, as of March 2012, of the $230 million in required funding needed for the year, only four percent had been covered. All the same, OCHA reports, a “sustained and colossal humanitarian operation in response to the earthquake and the cholera epidemic has yielded remarkable results and continues to save lives.”
Overcoming the destruction of the 2010 earthquake requires more than just rock removal or ongoing food deliveries. As the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere—80 percent of the population already lived under the poverty line before the disaster struck—Haiti remains in need of assistance that will strengthen internal resources, empower the nation, and transform a longtime dependence on foreign aid. Political instability and violence have woven through much of the country’s roots, and the nation has continued to fall victim to chronic floods and hurricanes. In addition, Haiti’s broken education system continues to impede progress and stability; the CIA reports that just over half of the population age 15 and older can read and write, and as of 2010, 40.6 percent were unemployed.
In this vulnerable state, the earthquake heavily impacted a society already struggling for its welfare. The event does, however, offer great opportunity for rebuilding from the ground up—especially with the help of those willing to go beyond simply donating to truly investing.
As one international relief expert put it, the capital city of Port-au-Prince is not really recovering, but rather learning to live with the aftermath of disaster. No country can develop through credit or aid alone.
Donors seeking to aid in the immediate relief and long-term recovery of Haiti could: