World Marks Haiti Earthquake Anniversary

Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary since a massive earthquake struck Haiti, the Miami Herald reports.

“At 4:53 p.m., Haiti fell silent. It was a rare quiet time – 35 seconds – for this boisterous city normally filled with the sounds of the almost one million people who live on the street,” the newspaper writes. “From New York, Washington and Miami to Port-au-Prince, Haitians set Jan. 12 aside to grieve, to pray and celebrate life. But among the prayer vigils, memorials and beating of drums, Haitians also looked ahead, envisioning a future that includes more hospitals and schools, clean water and homes. Many mourners questioned why it was taking so long for Haiti to rise up from its ashes,” according to the Miami Herald.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, co-chairs of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, “met with reporters to offer a guardedly optimistic view of the country’s future,” the newspaper reports. “We still have a lot to do,” Bellerive said. “We want to concentrate on building a new Haiti, not just what existed before,” he said. According to Clinton and Bellerive, about 50,000 families now have access to potable water and 106 million cubic feet of rubble has been removed. “Bellerive stressed the need for jobs, saying that Haiti does not have the means to provide every quake victim with a free house. ‘Before you can talk about housing, you have to talk about a job,’ Bellerive said.” The article also highlights sentiments of Haitian earthquake survivors (Charles/Daniel/Robles, 1/12).

Meanwhile, according to a post on Politico’s Laura Rozen’s blog, the U.S. has committed $2.656 billion for “relief, recovery, and reconstruction” in Haiti, said Thomas Adams, the State Department’s special coordinator for Haiti. “The money has gone to projects including emergency housing and health initiatives, as well as efforts to address disasters that have emerged from the rubble over the past year, such as the cholera epidemic,” according to the blog.

The post also highlights views from the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Dan Beeton, who discussed the need for aid oversight, Robert Maguire, chairman of the Haiti working group at the U.S. Institute of Peace, who focused on Haiti’s government, and the State Department’s Cheryl Mills (Cheney, 1/12).

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton released a statement marking the one-year anniversary. Clinton noted that “more than 140 nations” have come “together to support Haiti in its time of need.” She said, “That spirit of cooperation must continue if we are to help Haiti overcome this tragedy. … Let us all rededicate ourselves to partnering with the people of Haiti in their pursuit to build back anew” (1/11).

News Outlets Examine Health, Report On Quake Anniversary

Scientific American published an article on Wednesday examining the health situation in Haiti. “Much of Haiti’s population of 10 million already lacked reliable access to ambulance services, clean water and good sanitation before a magnitude 7 earthquake struck … Now, after receiving billions of dollars in aid and a small army of volunteer health workers, has the country climbed onto more stable ground for health? The short answer is, no. But the significant challenges facing Haiti in ensuring the health of its citizens involve factors more complex than temporary housing camps or damaged hospitals, public health experts say,” the publication writes.

The article looks at the relationship between infrastructure and health, the effect that Haiti’s reputation as the “republic of NGOs” has had on the health situation, health in the tent camps and the outlook for the future. Several experts are quoted including: Sandro Galea, chair of the epidemiology department at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health; Richard Garfield, a professor of clinical international nursing at Columbia University’s School of Public Health; Medecins Sans Frontieres President Unni Karunakara; Stefano Zannini, MSF’s head of mission in Haiti; and Daphne Moffett, deputy director for the Health Systems Reconstruction Office at the CDC’s Center for Global Health (Harmon, 1/12).

In a comment in the journal Nature, Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado at Boulder and Nicholas Ambraseys of Imperial College London conclude that high death tolls after the earthquake in Haiti and other quakes is not just a result of poverty, but corruption, the New Scientist reports. “This, they argue, allows developers to disregard building codes. … They found that 83 percent of the deaths from building collapse in earthquakes over the past three decades occurred in countries with anomalously high scores for corruption. ‘It’s a smoking gun,’ says Bilham.”

The researchers used data from Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index to complete their research (Aldhous, 1/12). “In sum, there is statistical support for widespread anecdotal evidence of a correlation between corruption and loss of life in earthquakes,” the authors write in Nature, citing Haiti and Iran as “extreme examples of nations where fatalities from earthquakes are excessive and where perceived levels of corruption are above average” (1/13).

The Guardian has published a selection of reports released by NGOs to mark the earthquake’s one-year anniversary. Summaries of findings from reports from the American Red Cross, Amnesty International, Christian Aid, the Disaster Accountability Project, Merlin, MSF, Oxfam, Save the Children, the U.N. Development Program, and UNICEF and World Vision are included (Provost, 1/12).

Another report – “Media, Information Systems and Communities: Lessons from Haiti,” which was funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation – describes “lessons learned from the use of new digital media applications that helped relief workers” after the earthquake, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. “The use of crowd-sourcing, text messaging and interactive mapping proved invaluable, especially with the country’s traditional communications infrastructure crippled, according to the report,” which was released on Wednesday. “Haiti became the first real-world crisis laboratory for several media platforms that had only recently emerged,” according to the report. “These were applied to support rescue efforts, assist displaced populations and coordinate massive relief operations” as well as public health messages (Lee/Evangelista, 1/13).

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