by David Slive
On 12 January, 2010, a terrible earthquake struck near the capital of haiti and its surrounding neighborhoods. The quake measured 7.0 on the Richter scale. The quake occurred close to the surface of the earth, thus making it even more devastating. Haiti is the poorest UN member state in the Western hemisphere and its buildings are poorly constructed. Thus while it took mere minutes to destroy, it will take at least 10 years to rebuild Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. In act, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive asserted that the quake crippled the entire country.
What are the facts? The quake reduced the affected area to rubble in no more than a few minutes. According to current estimates, approximately 230,000 human beings were killed by the quake and most buried in mass graves. Approximately 300,000 others were seriously injured by this disaster and three million more human beings are in desperate need of help. There are also, according to UNICEF, approximately one million unaccompanied or orphaned children as a result of this terrible quake. The immensity of this tragedy is hard to fathom. At the present time, there are a number of intractable problems: 1. most of the roads have been destroyed; 2. the spread of disease must be prevented; and 3. numerous types of aid must be provided to the living, including medical care, clean water, safe living quarters, food, clothes, and other basic necessities. Due to the nature of the tragedy, the provision of aid is proving extremely difficult to accomplish, and obviously there is not time to lose.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has asked former President Bill Clinton to serve as a special UN envoy to Haiti in this time of crisis. His task is a daunting one. According to Clinton, the Haitian people will ultimately prevail despite the immensity of the problems facing them. The international community has responded to this catastrophe in a sensible manner.
Numerous organizations and UN member states are involved in aid efforts—including the UN, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, the International Red Cross, Oxfam, the United States, Cuba, Venezuela, Canada, and many others. Perhaps this terrible tragedy will transform Haiti into a developed society from the heap of rubble that is now Port-au-Prince.
David Slive, Buffalo
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