Global Trends by Martin Khor
Monday 18 January 2010
of earthquake in
The year 2010
began with a earthquake with terrible effects in
In 2004, the year
ended with a horrific earthquake-induced tsunami that took the lives
of hundreds of thousands in several countries. In 2010, the year began
with another big earthquake in
devastation caused by 12 January earthquake has horrified the world and the end is still nowhere in sight.
The initial impact
was terrible enough. The earthquake destroyed 30% of the capital
and in some neighbourhoods half the buildings went down. The Presidential Palace, the Court of Justice, the United Nations buildings, schools government offices have not been spared.
Tens of thousands were killed at first and with poor rescue operations the total could rise to over 100,000. By last Saturday, 9,000 people had been buried. About 3 million people are affected from loss of homes, lack of food and medical treatment.
According to media reports, there is increasing tension in the devastated city as the majority of the victims still have no or little access to power or food several days after the earthquake.
The crisis is compounded by the fact that the already weak administration itself has lost personnel and thus is unable to respond to the crisis. The United Nations, which has thousands of staff and peacekeepers, also lost over a hundred personnel. It has also been difficult for international relief workers and aid to get through to the island.
“They are getting
more angry. The situation situation is getting more tense,” said a
United Nations spokesperson in
In one of the first
eye-witness accounts, Pooja Bhatia of the
day after, as the sun exposed bodies strewn everywhere, and every fourth
building seemed to have fallen, Haitians were still praying in the streets.
But mostly they were weeping, trying to find friends and family, searching
in vain for relief and walking around in shock.
“No one knows where
to go with their injured and dead, or where to find food and water.
Relief is nowhere in sight. The hospitals that are still standing are
turning away the injured. The headquarters of the United Nations peacekeeping
force, which has provided the entirety of the country's logistical support,
has collapsed. Cell and satellite phones don't work. Cars can't get
through many streets, which are blocked by fallen houses. Policemen
seem to have made themselves scarce.”
These efforts are expected to increase as the logistical lines to the stricken country are established. But they have been too little too late to save the many thousands that could have been rescued from the rubble of the collapsed buildings. They are urgently needed now to prevent even more deaths from the lack of food and health care.
The earthquake is the latest in a series of natural and man-made disasters to have hit this unfortunate country, which is the poorest in the Western hemisphere.
The country has also suffered political upheavals, with a history of dictatorial rule, coups and allegations of human rights abuses. Presidential and legislative elections were to be held this year under UN supervision. The earthquake may cause this to be delayed.
According to researcher Stephen Lendman of the Centre for Research on Globalisation, even before the earthquake, most Haitians had no running water, electricity, sanitation, or other public services.
country has been under
democratically elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was ousted
from the country in 2004 and went into exile in
Well over half the population is food insecure and most Haitian children are undersized from malnutrition; less than half have access to safe drinking water; nearly 40% of Haitian children don't attend school; and fewer than 20% of Haitians aged 15 or over are literate;
The society is also unequal. According to Lendman, 1% of Haitians control half the wealth, and an elite 5% of the population owns 75% of the arable land, and six dominant families control industrial production and trade.
is a country that is least prepared to handle a natural disaster like
the earthquake that struck last week. Perhaps this latest devastation
can eventually lead to a better organised and more socially equitable
society that can better deal with future crises.