Remember the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the global media coverage it received?
Have you ever wondered what after effects children in Haiti still face today?
Following the 2010 earthquake, this Haitian child received aid aboard the USNS Comfort (Public Domain Image)
Welcome, global volunteers! Let’s dive into the story and rippling effects of the 2010 earthquake on Haitian youth.
The earthquake was a catastrophic natural disaster that affected an estimated 3 million Haitians. The actual death toll is widely debated and ranges from 100,000 to 316,000 people with many more injured. Findings from the Haitian government suggested that about 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings were damaged. But that’s only the initial effects, Haitian children have experienced ongoing challenges that were made worse by the earthquake. Here are 6 social, political, and economic aftershocks facing Haitian youth today:
Haiti Map created by the UN OCHA and modified under a Creative Commons License
1. Sanitation and Clean Water Access
Following the mass destruction in Port-au-Prince, all of the capital’s hospitals were destroyed along with 50 health care facilities in total. Public utilities also suffered severe damages which greatly limited Haitian peoples’ already scarce access to clean water. Despite the efforts of volunteers worldwide over many years, Oxfram International expressed the difficult challenge facing Haiti’s youth in their 2010 briefing paper: “Well before the earthquake, Haiti suffered from extreme poverty, gross inequality, chronic political instability, and weak, corrupt state institutions.” Haitian youth live within this reality: recovery is a slow process and will still take many more years to happen.
2. Disease Outbreaks
Haiti’s lack of public health resources and earlier political challenges made them especially vulnerable to disease epidemics. Beginning months after the earthquake, Haiti experienced a devastating cholera outbreak that continues to threaten Haitian youth today. Since the media and most relief efforts stopped reporting on Haiti around 2013, recent information about the disease’s impact isn’t readily available. Although, a Boston Globe Editorial claimed that by August 2015, more than 700,000 Haitians had cholera and over 9,000 people had died. Given what we already know, Haitian youth today are probably vulnerable and likely suffer from illness on a wide scale.
3. Forced Migration
The immense destruction following the earthquake uprooted millions of Haitians. Considering that Haiti already suffered from extreme poverty and gross inequality, many Haitian families might still be homeless.
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4. Educational Access
Consider that half of Haiti’s schools (more than 1,300) and three Port-au-Prince universities collapsed. Since Haitian youth lack basic necessities—clean water, healthcare, and homes—that certainly affects both their ability to attend school and learn if they’re lucky enough to have one. Haiti’s inequality also makes it more difficult for students in poverty to do well in school. Educational resources are probably still scarce for many Haitian children.
5. Unemployment and Underemployment
The earlier social, political, and economic challenges facing Haitian youth today are complex. What’s unfortunate is that these many challenges work together and make an already difficult situation even worse. Since educational access is limited, Haiti’s youth also faces the risk of unemployment and underemployment. The destruction of Port-au-Prince and its slow recovery today have left a gaping whole in Haiti’s economy that is slow to fill.
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6. Spring Break, Haiti Style, Just Doesn’t Exist
It may be an unfortunate truth, but tourism is still one of the primary drivers of funds to Caribbean nations. Families spending summer or spring break in Haiti could help to provide essential funds to this island country, but because of the pervasively negative media coverage of Haiti, it doesn’t see nearly the numbers that its island-sharing neighbor, Dominican Republic, sees. While tourism can bring about its own potential issues for youth (think exploitation of youth at cruise ship ports and the like), it does offer significant advantages socially and economically.
Without visiting Haiti and experiencing the realities facing Haitian youth, it’s hard for us to know what’s really happening. But we do know that these challenges are complex and persist long after their media coverage ends.
Contributed by Nick Fochtman
Numbers and statistics mentioned can be found within the 2010 Haiti earthquake wiki references
Oxfam International’s 2010 Supporting good governance in post-earthquake Haiti briefing paper
Boston Globe 2015 Editorial UN must step up, apologize, and help drive cholera from Haiti