Why does Haiti have such little resilience to hazard events?

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Why does Haiti have such little resilience to hazard events?
Haiti is a disaster hotspot. It is a small Caribbean island which is adjacent to the Dominican
Republic. The disaster risk equation sums up why Haiti has such little resilience to hazard
events; it has a high hazard frequency and magnitude, a very vulnerable population as well as
a very low coping capacity.
Formerly a French dependency, Haiti has a wide disaster portfolio. It was hit by hurricane
Jeanne in 2004, creating a death toll of 3,006, which was mainly caused by widespread
flooding. In 2008, 3 major cyclones hit, creating over 800 fatalities. Also, on the 12th January
2010 an earthquake with a magnitude of 7 on the Richter scale was created at a conservative
margin between the North American and Caribbean plates. This was a shallow focus quake
and its epicentre was only 15km from the densely populated Port-au-Prince. After a major
cholera outbreak in March 2011 the death toll had risen to 250,000.
An earthquake with a similar magnitude of 7.1 on the Richter scale hit Christchurch on the 4th
September 2010, however this death toll was incredibly only 0! Even though Christchurch
has a high risk to natural hazards, a lot of money has been spent in order to prepare, predict
and prevent natural disasters, unlike Haiti which is a least developed country (LDC); therefore
there is no money to invest in good technology in order to protect them from disaster.
Also there is no health care system or money for medicine in Haiti; therefore I can conclude
that this small Caribbean island has hardly any coping capacity towards natural disasters.
Haiti is in absolute poverty ­ its human development index is only 0.47. Two thirds of the
population (10 million) live on less than $2
a day and most live in poorly constructed
shanty towns. Due to the corrupt
government and law system, there are
very poor building standards and
therefore most shanty towns are built on
unstable and steep slopes, consequently
this makes them very vulnerable to natural
disasters. There is also poor education,
therefore a lack of knowledge on
earthquakes and safety.
Haiti used to be covered in forest however due to mass deforestation only 2% of this is
left. This has resulted in less interception therefore creating more surface run off, leading to
an increase in flooding; which further increases the vulnerability of this small Caribbean island.
In conclusion, due to poverty, corruption, a lack of knowledge, low building standards and
deforestation, Haiti has become very vulnerable to its huge disaster risk. To make things
worse it has a very low coping capacity; no medical aid, technology or focus on the 3 P's.
This all means that Haiti has little resilience when disaster strikes.
Dan Grist

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