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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Haiti: One Year On

This time last year I was just beginning this little blogging endeavor and my first post dealt with the tragic earthquake in Haiti and looking behind the disaster to tell you a little bit more about the poorest nation in the Northern hemisphere. You can find it here, Haiti:Behind the Quake.

The devastating quake occurred on the 12th of January 2010, measuring a crippling 7 on the Richter scale. The earthquake left 1.5 million people homeless and 800,000 people, more than half of that number are still living in tents in the capital Port au Prince. The earthquake took the lives of between 95,000 and 220,000 people and the conditions in the tents are making life incredibly tough for those Haitians facing a challenging relief effort.

 One of the major issues that has came about since the earthquake is that of cholera, a water-born disease which has claimed the lives of at least 3,750 people according to figures released today by the Haitian Government. The total infected by the disease is 181,000, 101,000 of which have been treated in hospitals. The outbreak, discovered in in mid-October has sparked anti-UN riots with attacks occurring on Nepalese aid-workers accused of bringing the disease into the country.  However, the disease is being somewhat brought under control. The disease took 12 lives on January the 7th, the lowest of any day since the outbreak began.

Another tragedy owing to the lack of security in the aftermath of the quake is a marked increase in incidences of rape in Haiti. A report carried on Ireland's TV3 network interviewed one woman who had been gang raped by a group including a police officer. Woman are often susceptible to attacks while at communal water facilities some way away from the main campsites.  Indeed rape was only declared a criminal offense in Haiti in the year 2005. The minimum sentence for rape is 10 years however judges lack knowledge of the law with the majority of perpetrators spending just 5 years in jail. Police are even discouraging women from making complaints at the moment in order to limit pressure on the judicial system.

Services marking the anniversary were notably subdued, although very few Haitians went to work and a concert was held in Port au Prince. The moment the earthquake struck went all but unrecognized, perhaps owing to the fact that very few Haitians own a watch and have access to the exact time. The national palace remains in ruins however, there is contention over who should now be occupying it. To make it through the coming years, even perhaps decades the people of Haiti will need strong leadership. The question now is, who shall be the one to provide it?

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