Haiti has been struck by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake, the country’s most severe earthquake in over 200 years. Widespread damage resulted, with a majority of buildings collapsing due to poor structural design and construction. The capital city was devastated and up to some 100,000 people are feared dead.
Haiti sounds like it begins with the word HAY, probably the only country in the world with such phonetics. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It has been struck by multiple hurricanes, causing flooding and widespread damage, prompting Miami herald journalist Leonard Pitts, Jr., to ask “if the planet itself is not conspiring against this humble little nation”.
Haiti was once lush. Less than 100 years ago 60% of its original forest covered the lands and mountainous regions. Since then, an estimated 98% of its original forest cover had been cut down, and in the process has destroyed fertile farmland soils, contributing to desertification. It is now extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. In addition to soil erosion, deforestation has caused periodic flooding.
We wish the people of Haiti well as they struggle to respond to the crisis. A huge international aid effort is underway. As the country’s motto says, ‘Strength is Unity’ – a lesson for all humanity perhaps.