Haiti’s Aftershocks

January 12, 2012 marked the two-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti, killing a disputed but still significant number of Haitians.  An outpouring of international support soon followed, so, two years later, where is Haiti now?   United Nations peacekeepers, under the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (UNSTAMIH), have been present in Haiti since 2004 to restore political stability, but it was Nepalese peacekeepers sent post-earthquake that have been identified as the source of a massive cholera outbreak beginning in October 2010.  More than 6,500 Haitians have died of cholera; nearly 500,000 have been made ill.  Before the earthquake, no case of cholera had been seen on the island for more than century. In November 2011, U.S.-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti filed claims against the UN for hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation on behalf of some 5,000 victims.

Additionally, a report just released by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) and the Global Justice Clinic (GJC) at New York University School of Law reveals alarming levels of rape, linked to a gross lack of basic resources in Haitian internally displaced person (IDP) camps: the inability to find adequate food, clean water, and sanitation.  Despite the massive humanitarian response to the disaster, living conditions in the temporary settlements are dire – and worsening.  The upsurge in rapes has been attributed to shortcomings in the dwindling humanitarian response to the 2010 earthquake.  Some simple measures such as installing lighting in camps and locks in latrines can address a situation where many women and girls have lost the family and community protections that existed before the earthquake.

Is Haiti languishing due to rampant disaster fatigue?  What can be done when even humanitarian aid can bring unintended consequences that further traumatizes and destroys an already vulnerable population?

The CHRGJ/GJC report can be found here: Yon Je Louvri: Reducing Vulnerability to Sexual Violence in Haiti’s IDP Camps

One comment

  1. I think one of the major problems when it comes to disasters is that people are too short-sighted and have far too short of an attention span. After the typical natural disaster, everyone knows what is going on and international aide flows towards the problem but then people tend to forget about the problem, either because something else occurs or because they do not understand that after tragedies like this the process of repair is a long term one that can take a decade or more for things to get back to normal. The events you describe in this post, such as the shortage of food and supplies along with the prevalence of crime and rape, are likely based in part on the typical trend demonstrated above.
    While this source of problems is bad enough, it is appalling that those who are giving aid are taking advantage of the opportunity and the lack of police and order. However, if people were keeping a closer eye on things on a more long term basis, instead of just forgetting about the problem, then maybe things like this can be prevented. As such, I think the lesson that should be taken from this is that rebuilding after a national disaster is a long term project that requires long term planning and an attention span that matches that need.

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