AMU Editor's Pick Emergency Management Environmental Original Public Safety

Haiti Struggles to Recover from Two Environmental Disasters

By Dr. Kandis Wyatt
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics

Tropical Storm Grace recently dumped heavy rain and created strong winds in Haiti, which is currently struggling to recover from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that occurred on August 14. The earthquake has killed at least 1,419 people, injured 6,900 more and displaced about 1.2 million people, including 540,000 children.

According to CNN, “the earthquake struck at 8:30 a.m. local time on Saturday, at a depth of about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles); its epicenter was about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) northeast of Saint-Louis-du-Sud in the southwest part of the country. That location is about 96 kilometers (60 miles) west of the epicenter of the disastrous 7.0-magnitude quake that killed an estimated 220,000 to 300,000 people in 2010.”

These two major environmental disasters in less than a week has caused catastrophic damage to the southwest portion of the country. Severe poverty, systematic gang violence, the pandemic and a history of dysfunctional government have only worsened the struggles of Haiti’s 11 million people.

In addition, the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021 has challenged Haitian leadership, and the country has yet to fully recover from the 2010 earthquake. For many Haitians, their only source of lifelong aid in the absence of strong government institutions has been the local church.

The Logistics of Rendering Aid

The earthquake affected tens of thousands of homes, according to a Haitian civil protection agency. The quake has also created blockages on roads and wrecked infrastructure, making it difficult for vital supplies to get to where they are most needed.

The logistics of getting aid and supplies to people when roads, airports, and other vital transportation routes are damaged or destroyed are highly complex. Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry acknowledged that recovery efforts and aid have been slower than expected, mainly because the main roadways to the southern peninsula have been blocked by debris.

Mudslides Could Also Hamper Relief Efforts

Mudslides created by days of heavy rain can further complicate the efforts to get supplies to injured Haitians. According to CNN, “Haiti is prone to mudslides due to the topography of the island – the country is home to mountains more than 10,000 feet tall…The soil has also been destabilized by the recent earthquake and the aftershocks that followed.”

Years of deforestation in Haiti have created an ecological disaster, and Haiti does not have the infrastructure resources to address these environmental challenges.

Lessons learned from the 2010 Earthquake

The recent earthquake is just the latest challenge for a struggling Haiti, which was shaken in 2010 by a disastrous 7.0 magnitude quake that killed an estimated 220,000 to 300,000 people. The 2021 earthquake injury and fatality numbers are not expected to rise to the levels recorded in 2010, mainly because of preventative measures that were implemented to prevent a recurrence of disaster mitigation challenges.

What Are the Potential Solutions to the Infrastructure Challenges?

Infrastructure challenges have had a domino effect throughout Haiti. First, it is increasingly challenging to provide relief to areas that have blocked roads and wrecked infrastructure. Second, supplies such as medication, food, and search and rescue equipment are vital, but are hard to transport to affected areas.

Third, as many as 1.5 million Haitians across the southern peninsula may be displaced because of structurally damaged or completely destroyed homes. Fourth, a lack of drinkable water can lead to a host of health challenges, especially as Haitian daytime temperatures in August average 95 degrees. As a result, widespread disease, hunger and multiple mental health challenges may result from this tragedy.

Aid Is Needed Now

Given the environmental challenges of an earthquake and a tropical storm in less than a week, Haiti is experiencing devastation that is almost beyond human imagination. With limited government intervention, Haiti has had to rely on donations from neighboring countries such as the United States to render aid.

The Pentagon, in coordination with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided some relief for Haiti in the form of military personnel and unmanned and manned aircraft to provide aerial images of the earthquake’s devastation. First responders in Haiti need to manage multiple overlapping crises at the same time to deliver emergency relief, and the international community can contribute to relief efforts. More help is definitely needed.

Making a Contribution to Help Haiti

Each one of us has the power to render aid. One donation can truly make a difference. For instance, you can make a donation through your local place of worship or through charitable organizations like UNICEF, Hope for Haiti, and World Vision.

It’s also important to research charitable organizations to understand how much of your actual donation will reach those in need. According to the Federal Trade Commission, it’s wise to take these steps to avoid charity scams:

1. Do some research online

Are you considering making a financial donation to a cause or charity? Use search terms such as “hurricane relief,” “homeless kids,” “best charity” or “highly rated charity.” If you want to give to a specific charity, search its name and also include the search terms “complaint,” “review,” “rating,” or “scam.”

Another good website to check is Charity Navigator, which provides in-depth information on charities. Also, examine charity websites for Haitian relief carefully; many scam websites appeared in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

2. Be careful how you pay

If someone wants donations in cash, gift card or money wires, refuse to donate in that way because those types of donations are commonly used by scammers. Instead, pay by credit card or check and keep a careful record of all the donations you make. In addition, review your statements closely to make sure you’re only charged the amount you donated and that no one has signed you up to make a recurring donation.

3. Keep scammers’ tricks in mind

Don’t let anyone pressure you into making a donation, a common tactic used by scammers. Other tricks scammers use include thanking you for a donation that you never made, changing caller ID to make a call look like it’s from a local area code or using names that closely resemble to the names of real charities.

It definitely pays to do thorough research before you donate. Scammers often make lots of vague, sentimental claims but often can’t give any specifics about how your donation will be used. For instance, bogus organizations may claim that your donation is tax-deductible when it is not.

Impact Your World has compiled a list of donation opportunities to help people in Haiti affected by the crisis. While there’s no guarantee that another environmental disaster will devastate Haiti in the future, it is clear that the solution to solving the current problems of Haiti is to increase public awareness, render aid, and implement resilient and sustainable infrastructure efforts.

Dr. Kandis Wyatt, PMP, is an award-winning author, presenter, and professor with nearly 30 years of experience in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM). She is the creator of the Professor S.T.E.A.M. Children’s Book Series, which brings tomorrow’s concepts to future leaders today. A global speaker, STE(A)M advocate, and STE(A)M communicator, she holds a B.S. in Meteorology and an M.S. in Meteorology and Water Resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in Public Administration from Nova Southeastern University. She is a faculty member in Transportation and Logistics for the Wallace E. Boston School of Business and specializes in Artificial Intelligence (AI) in transportation, education, and technology.

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