The magnitude 7.0 earthquake

Still today, Haiti is struggling, the already miserable conditions of the country became tragic after the devastation caused by the 12 January 2010 earthquake. The magnitude 7.0 earthquake, with an epicenter located approximately 25 km south and west of the capital city Port-au-Prince, left approximately 200,000 dead and 2.3 million homeless forced into ramshackle tent cities.

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According to experts, Haiti’ s earthquake was quite atypical. The tectonic plates that were involved were those of the Pacific and the Philippines. The Enriquillo Fault is a strike-slip fault meaning that it marks a location where the edges of two tectonic plates are sliding past each other horizontally, instead of pulling apart or one slipping beneath the other. But the data showed that the slip that occurred during the 12 January quake was vertical, not horizontal. Some academics of Miami University suppose that the Haiti earthquake was triggered by several geological phenomena affecting the area, including deforestation and the 2008 hurricanes. This quake was centered in a mountainous area of southwest Haiti that has undergone severe deforestation – over 98% of the trees have been felled on the mountain in recent decades, allowing extreme erosion to occur during Haiti’s frequent heavy rainfall events. Moreover the hurricanes of 2008 may have set up Haiti for an ever larger disaster. The amount of mass eroded away from the mountains over the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake was sufficient to cause crustal strains capable of causing a vertically-oriented slippage along a previously unknown fault. This type of motion is quite unusual in this region, as most quakes in Haiti tend to be of the strike-slip variety, where the tectonic plates slide horizontally past each other. The fact that the 2010 Haiti quake occurred along a vertically moving fault lends support to the idea that the slippage was triggered due to mass stripped off the mountains by erosion over the epicenter.
Still today many people are suffering the consequences of the earthquake (160 thousand people remain displaced) in addition to chronic food insecurity and hunger.

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According to the United Nations Food agency, extreme weather shocks of storms and hurricanes and poor harvest have left the people severely food-insecure, and that among the 1.5 million severely food-insecure people in Haiti are children who need assistance. Malnutrition often implies several consequences such as problems in the physical and intellectual development of individuals.
Food crisis in Haiti has reached critical point. Behind Haiti’s hunger there are several structural causes, among which the negative effect of the US food aid programs that promote imported food produced by U.S. agribusiness companies.The use of foreign food to help hungry people, since it undercuts local production, makes people dependent, modifies their food habits and, in the long run, contributes to even more hunger. US food companies are crushing local farmers.
Over the past few years, land grabbing and financialization of agricultural raw materials has targeted many of the world’s poorest states, needless to say Haiti is one of these. Throughout 2007 and 2008 food prices rocketed, bringing millions of people into hunger. Combined with the shrinking appeal of other assets in the wake of the global economic crisis, the hike in food prices sent investors scurrying in search of agricultural land. Haiti is one of those countries suffering from a litany of governance weaknesses that created an inability to properly consider the impacts of land deals, ensure that they were equitable, or build-in social and environmental safeguards. Moreover, the devastating 12 January 2010 earthquake worsened the structural crisis. Haitian peasants deprived of land to cultivate and therefore of food, have been forced to migrate to urban suburbs and to live in shanty towns in absolute poverty.

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Besides hunger, Haiti has to deal with issues of poverty and water scarcity on a daily basis. Poverty affects 70% of the population, while access to clean, fresh water is a main concern in Haiti due to the absence of adequate water systems. Waterborne illnesses, such as typhoid, cholera, and chronic diarrhea, are the cause of more than half of the deaths in the country every year. Contaminated water is also one of the leading causes of childhood illness and the very high infant death rate, about 90% of Haitian children suffer from waterborne illnesses and intestinal infections. Many Haitians are also affected by respiratory infections, and meningitis, while the country has the highest prevalence of HIV infection in Latin America. With regard to cholera, the outbreak occurred ten months after the 2010 earthquake, and has killed 8,352 people and hospitalized 700,000.
According to the analysis carried out by researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta and at Yale University, U.N. peacekeepers inadvertently but negligently brought cholera into Haiti, causing one of the largest epidemics in recent history. As the report documents, in October 2010, some Nepalese peacekeeping soldiers belonging to the U.N.’s Haitian mission, MINUSTAH, unknowingly, carried cholera into the country. Because of inadequate water and sanitation facilities at the MINUSTAH base in the Haitian town of Méyè, sewage from the base contaminated the Artibonite River, the largest river in Haiti and one the country’s main water sources.
Despite the positive data showing economic growth in the last two years, the head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Sandra Honoré said that it is hard to imagine that real change and progress are taking place in the country. Haiti urgently needs structural reforms for its reconstruction.
Filippo Romeo


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