By Glynn Cosker
Recovery efforts continue in Haiti where a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the nation Saturday – about 80 miles west of its capital city Port-au-Prince. Many manmade and natural obstacles are hampering progress including gang violence and an expected tropical depression making landfall.
Haiti Quake’s Death Toll Rising
According to Haitian authorities, the death toll stood at 1,297 on Sunday, with more than 5,700 people injured. The quake struck only 11 years after the devastating 2010 earthquake which killed more than 50,000 people.
Saturday’s quake nearly razed some towns, and rescue missions were upended by landslides triggered by the quake and aftershocks – along with Haiti’s often unrelenting heat. Officials in Haiti said more than 7,000 homes were demolished as a result of the tremblor, and close to 5,000 homes were damaged, leaving around 30,000 families homeless.
Providing Immediate Aid to Survivors is Vital
“Providing immediate aid to the thousands of people who are now without a home or access to freshwater is one of the top priorities for USAID personnel and other groups providing humanitarian aid and others who are managing this disaster,” stated Dr. Christopher Reynolds, Dean & Vice President at American Military University (AMU). Dr. Reynolds was on-the-ground for relief efforts following the 2010 Haiti quake. “I know from experience that people can survive for days – if not weeks – if the conditions are right, so it’s important to continue the round-the-clock search for survivors among the rubble. But, the situation in Haiti – even without such a devastating earthquake – is tenuous and problematic when one considers some of the country’s lawless factions and its overall poor infrastructure.”
Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere was already coping with the coronavirus pandemic – which has seen a marked increase in COVID-19-related deaths in 2021 according to statistics from Our World In Data:
Gang violence is prevalent with some gangs in certain regions preventing access to humanitarian personnel and even attempting to steal some of the aid items. Additionally, the nation has faced political upheaval and uncertainty since the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
Tropical Depression Grace Set To Worsen Conditions
If all of that wasn’t bad enough, the situation will likely worsen with the anticipated arrival of Tropical Depression Grace which was predicted to hit Haiti on Monday night – with flash flooding, rough seas and mudslides expected.
Hospitals and other vital infrastructure elements are in dire need of assistance with many public buildings, including schools, either totally destroyed or badly damaged.
Doctor: ‘They Need Everything’
“Basically, they need everything,” Dr. Inobert Pierre told the Associated Press. Dr. Pierre is a pediatrician with the nonprofit Health Equity International, which oversees St. Boniface Hospital in Haiti.
“Many of the patients have open wounds and they have been exposed to not-so-clean elements,” added Dr. Pierre, who visited two hospitals in Les Cayes — one with a combined total of around 300 patients. “We anticipate a lot of infections.”
Buildings Built To Withstand Hurricanes – Not Earthquakes
Sitting within in the active Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone, Haiti has suffered numerous major earthquakes over the centuries. It has also faced catastrophic hurricanes too. Buildings in the country strive to withstand the high winds produced by those hurricanes but many structures are sorely inadequate when dealing with a major earthquake.
“There is technical knowledge in Haiti. There are trained architects. There are city planners. That’s not the problem,” Mark Schuller told USA Today. “The problem is a lack of funding for coordination and lack of political will from donors (to organizations providing aid),” continued Schuller who is a professor of anthropology and nonprofit and NGO studies at Northern Illinois University.