12 January 2011

One-Year Anniversary of the Haiti Earthquake

The graph above comes from my colleague Roger Bilham here at the Universisty of Colorado.  It shows historical earthquakes as a scatterplot of deaths and magnitude.  Highlighted on the graph of the 2010 Haiti and Chile earthquakes.  The Chile earthquake was more than 500 times more powerful than the Haiti quake, but the loss of life was 200 times more in the Haiti quake.

Roger distilled lesson of the Haiti quake soon after in Nature (PDF):
The future global burden of local earthquakes could be significantly reduced if minimal construction guidelines were mandated in all the world’s cities, and especially in those with a history of previous earthquakes. The projected doubling in world population means that we are constructing more buildings now than at any time in our history10,11. In recent earthquakes, buildings have acted as weapons of mass destruction. It is time to formulate plans for a new United Nations mission — teams of inspectors to ensure that people do not construct buildings designed to kill their occupants.
A more comprehensive analysis can be found in Roger's paper on "The Seismic Future of Cities" (PDF).

One year later the disaster is still unfolding.  Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reports:
One year after a devastating earthquake killed an estimated 222,000 people and left 1.5 million people homeless, Haitians continue to endure appalling living conditions amid a nationwide cholera outbreak, despite the largest humanitarian aid deployment in the world, said the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

While overall access to basic healthcare has improved since the earthquake, the rapid spread of cholera across the country underscores the limits of the international aid system in responding effectively to new emergencies. International agencies must live up to the commitments made to the Haitian people and to donors by turning promises into more concrete actions, said MSF.

Urgent humanitarian needs must be met while long-term reconstruction plans are pursued. The overall health of the population and the ability to contain the risk of disease outbreaks depend on improving water and sanitation and ensuring that the one million people still living in tents have access to sufficient transitional shelter.
You can see the full MSF report here in PDF and see a MSF video report from Haiti below.  And of course, you can donate in support of their good work here.