Eight intriguing takes on Haiti’s quake anniversary

One year after Haiti’s devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake, in which about 230,000 were killed, news organizations are marking the anniversary with smart retrospectives, visual updates and reports on what has changed — and what hasn’t. Here’s my collection of some of the best reports out there:

A year of NPR’s coverage of Haiti

NPR's multimedia report on Haiti

NPR has collected a year of coverage into this stunning package of photos, audio and written reports.

An interactive map of Haiti before and after the destruction

New York Times

An interactive map of Haiti

The New York Times uses satellite imagery to document the tent cities and construction since the quake. You can look at images of Port-au-Prince before the quake, right after and today.

“Why is Haiti Still Struggling?”

The BBC provides an excellent overview beginning with a personal story by a reporter who was in Haiti for the quake last January:

Once in a while, you visit a place that you know will forever be lodged in your mind.

That place for me is L’Hopital de la Paix, on Delmas 33, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

I first went there just about 24 hours after the earthquake on 12 January last year.

Now, a year later, walking into the hospital grounds, it all comes back.

Don’t miss their highly informative graphic displays and charts.

“Government dithering and lack of coordination”

The Guardian also provides a broad perspective on the tragedy, opening with a critique of both the international relief response and Haitian officials:

Government dithering and lack of coordination between aid agencies and donors have crippled rebuilding efforts in Haiti, leaving the country in ruins almost a year after the earthquake, a report says today.

Nearly 1 million people remain under tents or tarpaulins and rubble still clogs Port-au-Prince, reflecting a “year of indecision” which has put recovery on hold, according to Oxfam.

despite the plethora of aid organizations in Haiti nothing seems to be improving much. But it’s a question that keeps getting asked and cannot be ignored.

Is foreign aid the solution or the problem?

Slate argues aid has weakened Haiti and made a bad situation worse. 

These days, Haitians seem to be living in an untenable reality. Theirs is the country that staged the first successful slave uprising and established the first black republic in 1804. The idea and legacy of independence is at the heart of national identity. And yet as a result of the events of 2010—the earthquake, cholera, and flawed elections—there has never been so much unemployment and destitution and dependence on outsiders.

The president of Medecins Sans Frontieres (aka Doctors Without Borders) agrees that a massive international aid response has not done enough, but says the problem is lack of coordination.

Haiti should be an unlikely backdrop for the latest failure of the humanitarian relief system. The country is small and accessible and, following last January’s earthquake, it hosts one of the largest and best-funded international aid deployments in the world. An estimated 12,000 non-governmental organisations are there. Why then, have at least 2,500 people died of cholera, a disease that’s easily treated and controlled?

Innovation amid destruction

One interesting sub-story in this year-long tale has been the role of technology, especially mobile phones, in the emergency aid and recovery efforts. The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal summarizes a report by the Knight Foundation describing the many uses of technology to empower assistance projects:

What the crisis in Haiti showed was that the tools we’d played with could be used to do real work in the world. SMS wasn’t just for telling people about parties; it could be used to let first responders know where injured people were trapped. Crowdsourcing wasn’t just for making t-shirts on Threadless; Haitians across the globe could come together to do difficult technical translations.

Earlier this week, the Gates Foundation awarded $2.5 million to one cell phone operator in Haiti for establishing a mobile banking service, which proved critical to helping Haitians re-establish commerce.

One man’s trash is another man’s couture

[module align="right" width="half" type="pull-quote"]“I’ve been all over world. The two things I see most are poverty and trash.” - THREAD CEO Ian Rosenberger[/module]Finally, one company is looking to help Haitians by turning their garbage into fabric and creating jobs. The Christian Science Monitor’s “Got Trash? Make Thread” is a story about a Pittsburgh-based firm that is opening a new company, THREAD, and factory that will turn discarded bottles into high-performance clothing.

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About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org, follow him on Twitter @tompaulson and/or send a comment below.