Few Americans knew nor looked towards Haiti before the earthquake. Hours have turned into days of devastating news coverage. Below is an overview of life in Haiti before the earthquake.
Located in the Caribbean about 50 miles southeast of Cuba, the island nation of Haiti is one of the world’s poorest countries. Most Haitians live on less than $2 a day.
US aid has been flowing into Haiti long before the earthquake. For example, in fiscal year 2006 Congressional earmarks and directives to Haiti brought over $75 million, with expectations of similar or slightly greater levels each year thereafter. The U.S. is Haiti’s largest bilateral donor and has invested over $420 million in the past two years.
Estimated population of Haiti is between 8 and 10 million.
Haiti has the highest HIV prevalence of any Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) country, and is second only to Brazil in the absolute numbers of people living with HIV in the Western Hemisphere.
Sidenote: Interestingly enough, President Barack Obama recently announced a published final rule that eliminates the 1987 travel ban on HIV-positive travelers and immigrants from entering or traveling through the United States without a special waiver. (read my Hope, change and HIV article)
30% of the population had access to improved sanitation facilities before the earthquake. (no toilets?)
54% of the population had access to an improved water source before the earthquake. (no running water?)
Main religions are Catholicism, Protestantism and Voodoo* (*recognized as a religion in 2003)
Official languages are French and Creole.
Between 40,000 and 50,000 US citizens live in Haiti.
On July 8, 2009, HR 3127 was introduced into the House of Representatives to direct the Architect of the Capitol to acquire a statue of “The Unknown Slave” for permanent display in Emancipation Hall at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, DC.
The original “Unknown Slave” is on display in Haiti. Sculpted in the late 1960’s to commemorate the slaves who revolted against France. One left leg is extended with a broken chain on his ankle, a machete in one hand and a conch shell in the other held to his lips. The conch shell was used to sound the call to rebellion, which started the slave revolt in 1791. Haiti’s Independence, the First Black Republic in the World, was proclaimed on January 1, 1804.
January 12, 2010 – one of the world’s poorest countries was hit by a 7.0 Richter scale earthquake. The epicenter was just 15 km (about 10 miles) southwest of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, at a depth of 10 km.
President Barack Obama responds to the Haitian earthquake: “In these difficult hours, America stands united,” Obama said. “We stand united with the people of Haiti, who have shown such an incredible resilience, and we will help them to recover and to rebuild.” The President indicates that he’s directed his administration to take “swift and coordinated and aggressive action.”
“The losses that have been suffered in Haiti are nothing less than devastating, and responding to a disaster of this magnitude will require every element of our national capacity,” Mr. Obama said.
1/13/10 – A US Coast Guard cutter is the first US government aid to reach the earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince.
1/14/10 – President Obama announces an immediate investment of $100 million to support relief efforts in the early days of the crisis. Also stating the investment will grow over the year as we help our neighbors embark on what is going to be a long-term recovery.
First Lady Michelle Obama, remarked on Haiti during a visit to the Department of Labor “…as you know, it’s not just in the weeks and months ahead. This is going to be something that we’re going to have to put our attention to for many years to come. ”
1/15/10 – Temporary Protected Status (TPS) – Haitian nationals in the United States as of January 12, 2010 may continue living and working here for the next 18 months. There is an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 illegal Haitians currently living in this country who will receive this protection. On 7/13/2010 the Department of
Homeland Security extended the registration period through January 18, 2011 for the Temporary Protection Status. Other countries currently receiving “temporary protection status” in the United States include: El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan (Liberia receives Deferred Enforced Departure).
1/15/10 – President Obama pledges long-term reconstruction help to President Rene Preval as 10,000 U.S. troops head to Haiti’s shores
1/18/10 – Haiti Orphans – Secretary Janet Napolitano allows orphaned children from Haiti to enter the United States to ensure that they receive the care they need after last week’s earthquake.
1/19/10 – Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano authorized the temporary activation of up to 900 reserve U.S. Coast Guard service men and women to bolster the more than 500 Coast Guard personnel already serving in Haiti.
1/20/10 – US House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation to boost charitable donations to victims of the Haiti earthquake.