Haiti Earthquake One-Year Anniversary: Geography of a Disaster



 Photograph by Benjamin Cole, My Shot

For me, January 12 has always been significant as my mother’s birthday. So, Happy B-day, Mom!

For most of the world, however, today is a grim anniversary, a cause for somber reflection rather than joyful celebration. It was just one year ago that a devastating earthquake rocked Haiti.

The Caribbean nation, the most impoverished in the Western Hemisphere, is still struggling mightily to recover a year later. Even now dead bodies are being unearthed, and experts estimate that less than 5% of the rubble from the earthquake has been removed. Millions of Haitians are still without homes, stranded in makeshift camps.

On the anniversary of the disaster, MWW joins others in reviewing a year of relief efforts and assessing the current state of affairs. However, our unique approach is to surface resources that offer answers to some of the most compelling geographic questions surrounding the quake and its aftermath.

*PLEASE note that these resources are not meant to be exhaustive in covering all angles of any one issue, but rather are intended to serve as initial steps for further research these geographic questions.

Keep reading to dig into the geography of the Haitian earthquake!

Thumbnail image for Haiti_Quake_Shaking.gif

Image courtesy CBS/ESRI/USGS

Geo Question 1: Why is Haiti so susceptible to Earthquakes?

This clip, produced by Al Jazeera and posted on Watckknow.org (a resource for educational videos), offers an introduction to plate tectonics in the region from a meteorologist and another expert from the US Geological Survey:
Science Behind Haiti’s 2010 Earthquake

Geo Question 2: Why was the earthquake in Haiti so destructive, compared with other events such as the 2010 earthquake in Chile, despite having a “weaker” magnitude than the Chilean quake?

This article on the news site Helium.com explains some of the factors–physical, social, and political–underlying the severity of the quake.

Factors that contributed to the severity of the Haiti earthquake

A second article at The Week provides an excellent comparison between the earthquakes in Chile and Haiti.

Quake Comparison: Chile vs. Haiti

Geo Question 3: How has Haiti’s island neighbor, the Dominican Republic, assisted with relief efforts?

Traditionally, Haiti and the Dominican Republic have not been the fondest of allies. But, in the wake of the disaster, the DR answered the call of duty as Haiti’s closest geographic neighbor. This story from National Public Radio describes the early responses of Dominican governmental agencies and aid organizations.

For Haiti, Some Neighborly Help From Next Door

Geo Question 4: How are earthquake engineers working to prevent something like this from happening again in Haiti?

This video from PBS describes how earthquake engineers and scientists are helping design stronger buildings and other types of infrastructure for the future. The clip is accompanied by warm up and discussion questions, as well as links to lesson plans.

Rebuilding Haiti Using Earthquake Science

Geo Question 5: How did cholera arrive in Haiti, and how has it affected the recovering population?

Read this post from the 2010 Geography Awareness Week Blog-a-thon to learn more about the origins of the cholera outbreak, and how it can be studied through the lens of medical geography.

Contaminated Water Leads to Cholera Outbreak in Haiti

Final Question: Why is Haiti taking so long to recover from the Earthquake?

Haiti suffers from some unique challenges that are plaguing the rebuilding process, including disputes over land ownership. 

For a very comprehensive discussion of the current state of affairs, skim this recent briefing from the U.S. State Department.

Briefing on One-Year Anniversary of Haiti Earthquake

For a look at what one international aid organization is doing to help, read this brand new article from our very own National Geographic Education!

Keeping Hope Alive in Haiti

For more resources, including interactive maps and media, see the New York Times coverage of the anniversary of the quake.

Got any more geographic questions or observations about the quake of your own? Have a suggestion for teaching about the earthquake in the classroom? Share it with us!

Sarah Jane for My Wonderful World





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