Information and stories on Natural Disasters

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Haiti
The following 10 facts about life expectancy in Haiti reveal a domino-effect of massive natural disasters, fragile health care infrastructure and low access to preventative care in a country where half of the population lives in extreme poverty. On the bright side, poverty rates have improved and can continue to uplift if aid focuses on establishing long-term preventative care facilities and the government can effectively communicate with programs to meet needs. With the improvements in poverty rates and health care, life expectancy will consequentially improve.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Haiti

  1. The life expectancy in Haiti is 63.5 years, lower than that of its neighbors Cuba, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Female are projected to live longer with the life expectancy of 65.7 years while men are expected to live 61.3 years on average. The country’s population consists of 10.98 million people. The healthy life expectancy is alarmingly low, standing at only 44 years.
  2. More than half of the population lives on less than $2 a day, categorized as suffering from extreme poverty. A $2 daily budget allows little to no room for medicine, preventative care, hospitals or emergency clinics.
  3. The country has also seen various improvements over the last 30 years, as 1970 saw life expectancy rates that were as low as 47 years.
  4. The child mortality rate drastically improved since 1960 when it hovered around 249 deaths per 1,000 live births. Today’s rate of 71.7 deaths per 1,000 live births means care access for infants and children with complications or illnesses still needs to advance.
  5. On 12 January 2010, earthquake disintegrated medical and treatment facilities in Port-au-Prince within seconds. The magnitude 7 earthquake, powerful enough to destroy most of the city, put the medical system back to the most rudimentary stage with few facilities and overloaded the hospitals with the wounded people. Between 46,000 and 300,000 Haitians died and most areas were forced to wait for Doctors without Borders humanitarian aid for over a month due to the critical devastation of roads and airports.
  6. The country never had proper funds to establish a secure health care infrastructure amidst a crushing sequence of natural disasters. Quick and accessible care often spells the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, Haitian clinics that would have saved lives were destroyed in the earthquake. Of course, aid can never replace a health care system. Many international organizations partner with the country to provide health care access and immediate care. Plenty International, whose past and ongoing projects in Haiti include partnering with Haitian clinics, channeling medicine and supplies, including water sanitation tablets and offering Haitian midwives training in Home Based Life-Saving Skills, interventions that save women and children’s lives, is one of those organizations.
  7. After the 2010 earthquake, cases of cholera developed from unsanitary water conditions and lack of health care. By 2016, this disease had sickened 770,000 people and the U.N. promised to bring in funding to compensate the families of the deceased and ill. Cholera is not the only concern as Haiti suffers the highest percentages of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean at approximately 150,000 cases in 2016. Around 55 percent of the sufferers had access to antiretroviral treatment, an improved rate from 2010 when there were 10 percent more HIV-caused deaths. Progress shows up in malnutrition rates as well, as the number of undernourished children dropped significantly from 2006 to 2012 due to the government ramping up programs. As of May 2012, services included 285 outpatient programs, 16 inpatient stabilization units for severely affected children, 174 baby feeding tents and 350 supplementary nutrition programs.
  8. Annual per capita expenditure for health care is a stark $13. In comparison, this number is $180 in the Dominican Republic. After the administration of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whose presidency was toppled in 2004, the health care budget took a hefty slash. Hopefully, as Haiti strives to create more sustainability in its health care infrastructure, the current government administration will prioritize preventative care and have the ability to increase the budget.
  9. Habitat for Humanity, responding to the need for structures and sustainable living situations after the earthquake, organized Pathways to Permanence, developing urban areas and teaching about land rights and finances. Their HOME program also provides access to long-term financing to reduce the housing deficit. They have helped rebuild the district Simon-Pelé, north of capital Port-au-Prince, whose former structures were predominately self-built. The organization also partnered with the community to provide water and sanitation projects and vocational training for adults.
  10. Text message donations from all over the U.S. brought immediate funding for disaster relief. A nongovernmental organization named Innovating Health International (IHI) combines community-oriented disease research, collaboration with local perspectives and prevention awareness to treat women with a range of chronic illnesses. IHI is carrying out the widest-reading study of chronic disease in a low-income country in the world.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Haiti highlight the hard road ahead to establish a sustainable infrastructure to address the country’s health care needs. Part of the struggle lies with its need for disaster-relief programs, many of which operated mainly to bring emergency care. As Haiti stabilizes its economic and employment rates, and more citizens can afford or be provided with preventative care, the crisis will decelerate. However, the economic, political, and health-care infrastructure all require stabilizing and the continued partnering of foreign aid for the country to progress to a more sustainable future.

– Hannah Peterson
Photo: Flickr

The Importance of Female Disaster Responders
Within the aid sector, female disaster responders are essential to ensuring the concerns of women and girls are heard and met. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable during crises, facing risks that male responders may not even consider that can happen. Additionally, a lack of local female responders may reinforce gender inequalities. In certain regions of the world, however, women are coming together, taking charge of disaster response efforts and helping their communities prepare for and respond to crises.

The Forgotten Effects of Disasters

A recent study by the International Federation of the Red Cross on three Southeast Asian nations- Indonesia, Laos and the Philippines, found that sexual and gender-based violence increased after disasters. Sexual harassment, sexual assault, child marriage, child sexual abuse, domestic violence and human trafficking all increased in the aftermath of natural disasters.

Often, those in charge of the disaster response do not take into account these risks when designing shelters and evacuation centers. It is crucial that these facilities have separate areas for men and women, provide separate, lockable bathroom facilities and have adequate lighting.

The Importance of Female Disaster Responders

Having female disaster responders increases the likelihood that these issues will be considered and addressed. International aid groups need to work to increase the number of women who are deployed to participate in the disaster response. Having female staff can help make communication with local women easier, and ensure that women’s concerns are being met.

This can be difficult, however, as female responders face additional risks and concerns, including safety, security and access to personal hygiene products. To mitigate these concerns, the safety of female responders always needs to be taken into account when designing living arrangements and women need to be encouraged to speak up about sexual harassment or assault. Women should also be encouraged to speak up about hygiene needs, and all staff needs to be trained to be open and understanding about these issues.

Involving local women in response efforts is also crucial. Suzy Madigan, the senior humanitarian advisor for gender and protection with CARE International, stated: “By not understanding what are the protection risks facing women and girls and, crucially, what are the solutions that they themselves would suggest, then we’re failing 50 percent of the population that we’re trying to serve.”

Madigan also warns that not including women in disaster response efforts can “reinforce barriers and discrimination.” In certain communities, women may already be generally excluded from decision-making, so if humanitarian groups are only working with men, they are both reinforcing this inequality and ignoring the needs of women.

Femlink Pacific

In certain areas of the world, women have started forming female-led disaster response organizations for their communities, breaking down gender barriers and ensuring the needs of women are met. Female disaster responders in Fiji provide a perfect example of this and their work can potentially be used as a model for other locations. The southwestern Pacific averages seven tropical cyclones every year between November and April. Recent cyclones have been particularly devastating, with three Category 4 cyclones in the Pacific between November 2016 and April 2017.

The Women’s Weather Watch program, run by a women’s media organization in Fiji, Femlink Pacific, maintains a network of 350 women across the nation. They use this network to communicate weather reports to women in different communities and provide advice for preparing for the coming weather. Women working with Femlink Pacific connect with other women in their communities and may even lead meetings for local women to help educate them. For example, Fane Boseiwaqa leads monthly meetings for 60 women in the area. She says that women are leaders, but they have to have access to adequate information and communication.

It is not always easy for female disaster responders to get their voices heard by the wider community, however. While doing their part to prepare for disasters and help their neighbors, women are often sidelined. Sarojani Gounder, a member of the Femlink Pacific network and local district councilor, stated: “Nobody comes and asks the women what you want or what you need. There’s nothing.”

In response to this, women have begun organizing on their own, taking the initiative to form women-based groups. When there are shortages in food and supplies, women have proven themselves to be the most effective first responders, as they are more likely to work together for the betterment of the whole community. Selai Adi Maitoga, a member of the Femlink Pacific network, stated, “Men don’t ask the neighbors. But the women, we talk to each other. That’s why women are the first responders.”

The initiatives of female disaster responders in Fiji can provide a model for disaster response elsewhere, exemplifying the importance of getting local women involved in preparing for storms and providing aid in their aftermath. The knowledge that local women have about the needs of their communities is crucial to any disaster response. Where possible, efforts to include local women should be made, helping to bring women’s concerns and needs to light and adequately address them in the aftermath of a disaster.

– Sara Olk

Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Haiti
On January 12, 2010, large scale earthquake occurred, affecting the island of Hispaniola and most severely affecting the small country of Haiti. Five years after this catastrophe, many people in this country still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues.

Earthquake Consequences on Mental Health in Haiti

As a result of the earthquake, over 90.5 percent of Haitians had relatives that either died or were seriously injured and 93 percent saw dead bodies. Moreover, 24.6 percent of the earthquake survivors developed PTSD symptoms and 28.3 percent developed major depressive disorder (MDD) symptoms. That accounts for more than half the population suffering from mental illness post-quake.

It is not surprising that so many people were traumatized by the event, as the quake left more than two million affected, 222,750 killed, 80,000 bodies missing, 188,383 houses destroyed or damaged and 1.5 million displaced. Before the earthquake, the mental health system in Haiti was almost non-existent mostly due to stigma.

Problems in Resolving the Issue

The good news is that the earthquake united Haitians to put some focus on mental health, still not nearly enough, but just enough to get the ball rolling. However, due to the overwhelming need for mental health services and very limited resources, most Haitians are not getting the psychiatric help they need. Now that mental health issues are more widespread, there is a stronger push for the government to invest more in training professionals and increase resources for mental health in Haiti.

One of the issues around Haitians not receiving mental health is religion. Mental health issues tend to be attributed to supernatural forces, where three out of four Haitians will see an herbalist or Vodou priests for treatment instead of seeking clinical services. This is due to both cultural beliefs and inadequate resources for mental health. Clinical practice in Haiti must include mental health treatment intersected with Vodou beliefs to effectively care for patients of the country.

Center for Addiction and Mental Health

Out of more than 90 agencies that offered outreach to Haiti, only three offered psychiatric care. Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Office of Transformative Global Health in Canada is one of those agencies. The organization collaborates with 40 religious healers of Haiti to provide cognitive behavioral therapy in an effective way that is in conjunction with cultural beliefs.

The adoption of task-shifting, or dedicating low-cost mental health workers such as community health workers (CHWs) who operate at the community and clinic levels to supplement integrated care, will help with efforts to decentralize mental health care. These improvements are being made in Haiti, however, there is still a long way to go. More investment in the health care system is needed to implement adequate mental health treatment for those still suffering from the trauma of the quake, and more generally, mental health treatment is needed for all.

In improving services for mental health in Haiti, poverty can also be reduced. Implementing adequate treatment can have far-reaching effects, as poor mental health is often the root cause of other health conditions, and it can inhibit people from participating in social and economic development.

Although not enough outreach to Haiti involved mental health services, mental health in Haiti is improving. Through the integration of community services between psychotherapy and religious or cultural practices, agencies like CAMH are facilitating change in the country. Reducing those inhibited by mental disorders also creates more contributors to the community and less burden placed on society due to mental disability. However, more funding is needing in the mental health practice to reduce illness and poverty.

– Anna Power

Photo: Google

Why Typhoon Mangkhut Hit Poor People the Hardest in the Philippines
On September 15, the Philippines was struck by a massive typhoon. Winds were blowing at 210 km/h, gusting up to 285 km/h. The most recent death toll was 81 with dozens still missing. The World Meteorological Organization has named the storm the “strongest tropical cyclone the world has faced this year.” As with most other natural disasters, Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines hit the poorest populations the hardest.

Landslides

Deadly landslides occurred as a result of overflowing rivers. One of the most disastrous was in Itogen, a remote northern mining town. Emergency workers used shovels and their bare hands to recover the bodies of forty people from the debris. Of the victims, almost all are impoverished gold miners and their family members. Officers in the area told people to find safe shelter prior to the typhoon, but many stayed behind to work the tunnels where they perished.

In Naga, Cebu, landslides wiped out 30 homes in two rural villages, killing 18 people while 64 others are still missing. At least seven of the villagers were rescued after sending text messages calling for help. Too many farmers did not leave quickly enough because they were trying to harvest their crops before the storm or landslides destroyed them.

Authorities say that the typhoon was particularly damaging in the central northern mountainous Cordillera region (CAR), which is composed of the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province and the cities of Baguio and Tabuk. Populations that live in these mountains are heavily indigenous and predominantly poor, with 17.1 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Most farmers who live there grow rice, and their margin of income is very thin at best.

According to an article in First Point: “Poverty has forced many to live on or near volcanoes, steep mountains and storm-vulnerable coasts, often leading to disasters.” So, it is the poorest populations that bear the brunt of the destruction.

Massive Flooding

The flash flooding that has resulted from Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines has been disastrous for rural farmers. Mangkhut swamped farm fields in the north, where much of the agriculture is located. Unfortunately, the typhoon came a month after severe monsoon rains that had already made these provinces vulnerable to disaster. Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol predicts a total of 1.5 million farmers and over 100,000 fishing communities will be impacted by the typhoon.

The flooding was so bad that rice fields in Iguig could be mistaken for the town’s river. Oxfam’s April Bulanadi said of the disaster: “While I was able to see some farmers desperately harvesting crops the day before the storm hit, it was clear many were not able to do so. This is heartbreaking because it was supposed to be harvest season next month. This will have devastating impacts on small farmers, many of whom are still recovering from Typhoon Haima in 2016.” Some farmers lost their lives in the floods, but those who left in time will still lose their income due to lost and damaged crops.

The Aftermath of the Typhoon

The only current solution is to support the recovery of the victims of Typhoon Mangkhut. Clean water and materials needed to build shelters for those who have lost their homes are being sent by organizations such as Oxfam. Getting through to the villages has been problematic since the airport was also hit by the typhoon.

Maria Rosario Felizco, Oxfam Philippines Country Director, said that “we must also anticipate that the survivors of Typhoon Mangkhut, especially small fishers and farmers who have lost their source of income, will need support far beyond the first few days of this response.” However, aid is not the only thing that the country needs. Changes also need to be made in order to prevent disasters like this from completely destroying the livelihoods of poor farmers.

Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines was tragic. For those living in poverty, the storm directly posed a threat to their lives, work and homes all at once. The typhoon was particularly detrimental to the country’s poorest citizens because of their location and the devastating loss they must now endure due to destroyed crops.

Evann Orleck-Jetter
Photo: Flickr

Natural Disasters and Impoverished Countries
Just when one might think that impoverished people are facing enough difficulties, they become enlightened about other tragedies that make life more dismal for these people. According to Britain’s Overseas Development Institute, there is an overlap between countries already facing extreme poverty and countries that are more likely to be devastated by natural disasters.

Fortunately enough, this combination has occurred before so future governments and organizations will know what to do when such tragedies strike again. Countries have recovered. There is hope that these other countries will not face travesty forever. In the text below, some cases of natural disasters and impoverished countries who were able to recover are presented.

Myanmar

In 2008, Myanmar was struck by Cyclone Nargis that left a total of 138,000 people either dead or missing. Cyclones are not the only natural disaster that Myanmar is prone to. Earthquakes, floods, droughts, tsunamis and landslides also affect the country. Since 2012, climate change has affected the country greatly.

The organization Give2Asia has been present in Myanmar in previous years. Give2Asia is a network of charitable communities from over 25 countries throughout the continent. Their work in the country consists of breaking down the components that affect Myanmar’s economy and people the most and improving the situation in these fields.

The population most affected by natural disasters are the urban and rural poor, the agriculture population and communities that live on the coasts. The Give2Asia states that poverty is both the cause and result of natural disasters. Majority of the population depends on agriculture and fishing livelihoods to survive, so when a natural disaster hits and destroys all of their hard work, it is understandable that this cycle continues.

Because of this, many nongovernmental organizations and the Myanmar government began implementing disaster and risk reduction measures. Some of the measures are as following: early warning systems, adapting agriculture to climate change and creating disaster-proof buildings.

An example of an organization that has helped Myanmar in the past is Ar Yone Oo (AYO), that was put together shortly after Cyclone Nargis. The group targeted vulnerable and poor areas of Myanmar that were affected. After helping in the aftermath of Nargis, the group stressed the importance of implementing educational programs in poor communities aimed at learning these people what to do in the face of disaster. AYO was able to increase emergency preparedness in two townships as well as the entire Chin state of Myanmar.

Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004

The tsunami of 2004 affected 10 countries in South Asia. The death toll was over 200,000, over a million people were injured, and tens of millions of people were displaced. Relief Web calls this natural disaster “the single biggest challenge ever faced” by international aid, especially from nongovernmental organizations. This tsunami was an example of how natural disasters and impoverished countries are often connected.

Australian nongovernmental organizations and aid were able to prevent the suspected second wave of death, usually caused by disease, due to their quick response time and ability to provide clean water to the injured. By June 2005, Australia had committed and spent around $34 million on disaster relief in Indonesia alone. Australian organizations such as the Australian sectors of Red Cross, CARE, Caritas, Oxfam and World Vision were all publicly funded by the country and gave further aid to the affected countries. Due to this grand effort by just one continent, reconstruction was possible. The organizations consulted local communities on how they wanted to be restored so that the communities could build back better.

Work of the Indonesian Government

The Indonesian government also valued community input, which was a bold step at the time. Because they prioritized what the people wanted, they were able to create jobs and homes for the community and lessen the poverty rate. The government created programs that aimed to provide the best recovery for the whole population.

The Indonesian Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency (also called BRR in the country) was a group that worked for four years to rebuild Indonesia, specifically Aceh. During this time, the organization constructed over 140,000 houses, 4,000 kilometers of roads, 1,700 schools, 1,100 health facilities and 13 airports. Not only that, but the organization provided jobs for 40,000 teachers and gave out 7,000 fishing boats. Through caring for the livelihoods in the communities, this and other organizations were able to help these countries recover.

These stories are important to remember when looking to the future of disaster recovery and how to help already impoverished countries. By looking at the correlation between natural disasters and impoverished countries, and seeing what can be done to prevent total devastation, the terrifying future of repeated natural disasters might not be as bad predicted. Other countries can learn from the nongovernmental organizations in these cases, as well as Australia’s incredible effort.

– Miranda Garbaciak
Photo: Flickr

Disaster Relief in the Philippines
CARE is an international humanitarian organization that provides emergency relief and international development projects. Their mission is to save lives, fight against poverty, accomplish social justice around the world and help everyone to live in security. They also place focus on both women and children in several different countries who do not have equal rights and opportunities. CARE works in 94 countries around the world and supports over 1,000 humanitarian-aid and development projects fighting against global poverty.

CARE in the Philippines

This non-governmental organization has worked in the Philippines since 1949, and is known for responding to emergency disasters and providing preparedness and recovery. While typhoons and other natural disasters continue to affect the lives of many Filipino people, CARE’s disaster relief in the Philippines provides effective and innovative responses to emergencies.

CARE has responded to every typhoon in the Philippines, including Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) in 2012 and current Typhoon Mangkhut in 2018. One of the strongest storms, Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013, impacted around 17 million out of over 98 million people in the central region of the Philippines; this storm caused about 1.1 million homes to be damaged or destroyed.

CARES’ Disaster Relief

Regarding this storm, CARE immediately took action starting with providing aid to the Filipino people. After about a year, CARE provided emergency food assistance to over 54,000 households, feeding more than 9,000 children within their supported government school feeding program and training 500 community carpenters to rebuild destroyed homes. The program’s humanitarian aid in the Philippines has also involved and implemented an awareness of principles for building safer houses as well as identifying exactly what the most vulnerable in the Philippines need.

CARE has partnered with disaster professionals to respond to those affected by this typhoon; the organization also hopes to accomplish providing aid to 150,000 Filipino people who survived this emergency and natural disasters.

CARE continues to provide disaster relief in the Philippines and responds to every storm and disaster:

  • In 2014, just a few days after Typhoon Hagupit hit the Philippines, CARE immediately distributed food packages and emergency food rations to over 3,500 families who were affected.
  • CARE then initiated a fundraising request for $5 million in order to relieve and recover the needs of families as they plan to help families rebuild homes and income.
  • In 2017, CARE responded to the tropical storm, Tembin, that affected more than 500,000 people in the Philippines. CARE organized an emergency team and implemented needs and damaged assessments, providing relief assistance to those who were affected by the flooding.

This organization constantly continues their work in providing programs and teams to help relieve the Filipino people’s suffering during these storms and disasters. CARE focuses on providing disaster relief in the Philippines also promotes and desires to increase community resilience.

How CARE Provides its Aid

CARE provides its aid by amplifying the capacity of the people’s needs, adapting and predicting how certain disasters and issues are going to affect the population as well as discovering the causes of those in need of assistance. Due to this effort and dedication, CARE creates a better chance of implementing their humanitarian work while also adapting, protecting and reducing issues arising within the country.

CARE is currently responding to Typhoon Mangkhut, which is known to be one of the strongest storms to hit the northern Philippines in September 2018. CARE has immediately provided emergency response teams to Cagayan and they are continuing to assess damage and needs of the affected villages and towns. According to David Gazashvili, CARE Philippines’ Country Director, Care has “brought some supplies and shelter repair materials ready to be distributed to the affected families.” They are continuing to work with others responding to this typhoon to help assist the Filipino people’s needs.

Other Organizational Aid

Global Hand is a non-profit partnership that supports CARE and everything they do for the Philippines and other countries. The group also supports CARE’s desire to eradicate poverty and help those in need, especially families and those in need of aid and assistance.

Of course, there are other organizations such as USAID who have aided the Philippines during disasters. During the 2013 typhoon, USAID and the World Food Program had the ability to send 55 metric tons of nutritional foods to more than 20,000 children and 15,000 adults. According to USAID, the U.S. offered $20 million for humanitarian assistance for the emergency disaster in the Philippines.

CARE has always been there for the Philippines, never failing to be by the country’s side and help respond to emergency and natural disasters. While CARE also provides assistance in achieving equal rights for women and children as well as responds to sexual, reproductive and gender-based violence, CARE’s continued focus on disaster relief in the Philippines also helps end poverty. Their efforts in creating and implementing projects, programs and assistance will better the future and health of the Philippines.

– Charlene Frett

Photo: Flickr

earthquake
On September 28, 2018, the poverty-riddled country of Indonesia experienced a deadly natural disaster. A 7.5 earthquake followed by a tsunami that produced waves of up to 6 meters tall hit the city of Palu killing hundreds. As search efforts to find survivors continued, many news outlets have called into question the effectiveness of Indonesia’s early disaster warning system.

The Tsunami in Indonesia

BBC News reported that a system of 21 buoys used to trigger the warning system based off of the data that they receive was inactive during the time of the tsunami. Gifted to Indonesia by a few generous countries after the last natural disaster, the buoys had either been vandalized or stolen. With a strict budget in place, Indonesia hasn’t been able to afford the cost of replacing the buoys or maintaining the remaining system they currently have in place. As a result of the unreliable warnings in regards to the size of the waves, many have perished.

When a natural disaster hits a country that already has problems with its infrastructure due to poverty, like Indonesia, it often causes far more deaths and inflicts a lot more damage. BBC News compared similar natural disasters in three countries and found that impoverished areas are more susceptible to the effects of natural disasters.

The Hurricanes in Puerto Rico

In 2017 Puerto Rico suffered back to back hurricanes that left the country with even fewer resources than it had before. With 40 percent of its population living below the poverty line, the ailing country was already crippled by debt, experiencing a lack of electricity and facing school shutdowns. Given the state of Puerto Rico’s poverty crisis prior to the disaster, the country was ill-prepared for the effect the hurricane would have on its crumbling infrastructure.

Puerto Rico’s disaster relief efforts have been both challenging and expensive given its previous state of affairs. The U.S. has offered $2 billion to fix Puerto Rico’s electric grid, but in order to fix the damage done before and after the hurricane, it would take $17 billion. Further financial resources would have to be given to restore Puerto Rico’s infrastructure and help it to withstand natural disaster threats in the future.

The Earthquake in Haiti

Before the 7.0 magnitude earthquake disrupted Haiti back in 2010, 72.1 percent of the Haitian population was living on $2 a day in cities with poorly constructed cramped housing. Dwindling funds in Haiti were met with cost-cutting measures that led to faulty building codes. The soil-based land on which Port au Prince was built was at the epicenter of the earthquake, which also contributed to the city’s imminent collapse. With a stronger magnitude earthquake than Haiti, China lost 87.5 thousand people while Haiti lost 230 thousand citizens.

The earthquake in Haiti made quick work of the poverty-stricken area of Port au Prince. Haiti received $13.5 billion in aid relief after the earthquake, but with the money, came the unforeseen side effect of disease. After stationing soldiers on the ground to provide relief after the earthquake, toxic waste was spilled into a Haitian river causing a severe outbreak of Cholera which has killed an additional 9,000 people over the last four years. Additional relief funds will need to be provided to treat the epidemic.

When natural disasters strike areas that have been weakened by poverty, it leads to more damage, more lives lost and far more money needed to fix the situation. In many of these instances, measures could have been taken to prevent mass casualties, especially in areas where natural disasters pose a significant threat. Investing in long-term infrastructure solutions and natural disaster prevention instead of just throwing funds at a problem for an immediate fix in poverty prone areas will save more lives.

Catherine Wilson
Photo: Flickr

Cyclone Gita in TongaTonga, or the Kingdom of Tonga, is a Polynesian archipelago of 170 islands of which 36 are inhabited. With a population of 109,008 people, Tongans rely heavily on each other and the little they have to survive.

As of 2016, 22.5 percent of the population lived at, or below, the poverty line. In fact, 8,456 people lived off of $3.10 or less a day, and 1,125 people of that lived off of $1.90 a day. According to Pacific Islands Report, Tonga suffers from poverty because Tongans need to depend on overseas trades, tourism, aid donors and private sectors to bring money into their economy. At the same time, the nation lacks access to basic living essentials and services, and face poor climate.

The Impact of Cyclone Gita in Tonga

On February 3, 2018, Tongans were hit with a tropical cyclone named Cyclone Gita — the most impactful tropical cyclone to hit Tonga in recorded history. After three long weeks, Gita heavily affected 70 percent, or 50,000 people — one-third of them being children. While only two people died from this tragedy, hundreds of homes, schools, buildings, churches and agricultural land were destroyed.

Specifically, 171 homes were destroyed, more than 1,131 homes were damaged, about 5,700 people sought shelters, 129 classrooms in 83 schools were damaged (leaving 25,000 students affected and a total of 35,000 children affected) and $152 million worth of damage hit agricultural land.

Cyclone Gita put Tongans at more of a risk as this population mainly depends on fishing and agriculture for an income. Nearly 36 percent of Tonga is agricultural land and agriculture accounts for 30 percent of the GDP.

Also, 98 percent of students were left without a school. Instead of working in the fields for income or going to school, Tongans had to refocus their attention on rebuilding their country.

How the U.S. Helped People Affected by Cyclone Gita in Tonga

In 1967, the U.S. brought the U.S. Peace Corps to Tonga to work and build a relationship with the Tongans. In 1970, the U.S. and Tonga began a bilateral relationship after the U.S. accredited Kevin Franzheim II, the U.S. Ambassador, to New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.

Since then, the U.S. and Tonga have held a strong relationship with each other through trades and donations. In February, USAID donated $100,000 to assist the people affected by Cyclone Gita in Tonga; every year, the U.S. provides $21 million to the Pacific Island funds.

The World Bank also provided $14.95 million to the Pacific Resilience Program, a program dedicated to strengthening awareness and preparedness for natural disasters.

Lasse Melgaard, Resident Representative from the South Pacific, said funds to the Pacific Resilience Program will go towards rebuilding 30 schools, which will put 9,000 students into a safer-built school.

Steady Support & Recovery

Other countries including New Zealand, India, Asia and Australia have also funded Tonga in relief efforts by donating money and humanitarian supplies. Although the people of Tonga still struggle to put families back into homes and children into school, the Tongan people continue to help each other rebuild their homes from the ground up. The unfortunate news is that it is expected to take months for Tonga to recover, but the good news is that there is more than enough helping hands to speed up the process.

– Kristen Uedoi
Photo: Flickr

 Lima
The World Bank defines Peru as a country having upper-middle income, yet its capital city, Lima, is not free from the woes of poverty. With a population of more than 10 million, Lima is affected by a large income discrepancy and is susceptible to many natural disasters. To fully understand the circumstances, here are 10 facts about poverty in Peru’s capital:

10 Facts About Poverty in Lima

  1. The rate of poverty in Lima is currently 13.3 percent, which is 2.3 percent higher than the rate in 2016. However, compared to other Peruvian urban regions, Lima’s spike in the poverty rate is the lowest.
  2. Peru has an extreme poverty rate of 3.8 percent, which is defined as the inability to purchase a basket of basic food and beverages. However, this rate is only 0.7 percent in Lima, a lower number than the 1.2 percent prevalent in other urban areas of Peru.
  3. Lima’s slowing economic activity can be attributed to political turmoil. President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who was elected in 2016, was succeeded by Martin Vizcarra in early 2018 amidst allegations of corruption. Big banks, such as JP Morgan, claim that this “political noise” has made it difficult for investors to trust businesses in the region.
  4. While malnutrition continues to be a problem in Peru, Lima combatting this occurrence through community kitchens. Such kitchens provide food to half a million people in Lima alone and is organized by the local effort of over 100,000 women. These kitchens are a big part of Peru’s efforts to reduce hunger and malnutrition.
  5. Another fact about poverty in Lima is that there is a large income disparity, which has led to problems with access to clean water. While the rich have cheap water pumped into their homes, the poor pay almost ten times more for water to be delivered by lorries.
  6. Lima has to cope with heavy rainfall and floods due to its coastal location. These are often responsible for destroying most of the infrastructure, which was the case with the most recent flood — dubbed “coastal El Nino” — that inflicted $3.1 billion worth of damage. Lima, like many other coastal cities, had to share the burden, which was approximately 0.5 percent of Peru’s GDP in 2017. These natural disasters make it harder for residents to break out of the poverty cycle by capitalizing on infrastructure.
  7. Lima’s geography also poses as a restriction for city expansion. The city is a desert strip bounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Andes and three valleys. There is hence limited space available to build infrastructure and increase efficiency.
  8. Lima had a high employment rate of 93.4 percent in 2017. Of the employed population, however, 34.3 percent were still underemployed, suggesting that many did not have a job matching their skill level. Interestingly, Lima has experienced a 0.5 percent decrease in unemployment.
  9. Another important fact about poverty in Lima is that the divide between the rich and the poor has led to the rise of several squatter settlements, called “pueblos jovenes” (young towns) or “barriadas” (shantytowns). Currently, over 35 percent of Lima’s population lives in such squatter settlements.
  10. Despite many challenges, Lima’s residents are well-educated. About ninety-eight percent of the population older than 15 years are educated, of which 43 percent have higher education from post-secondary institutions.

Capital Progress

Although Peru itself faces several issues related to poverty, Lima has found ways to ameliorate the conditions and overcome difficulties. In the changing political and economic landscape of Lima, residents prove that there is both hope and a means to achieve such statuses. These 10 facts about poverty in Lima are but a testament to this city-wide occurrence.

– Sanjana Subramanian
Photo: Flickr

Two Months After Hurricane Maria, Reconstruction in Dominica Picks Up PaceAfter it made landfall on September 19, 2017, as a category five hurricane, Hurricane Maria devastated the island nation of Dominica. The storm was the worst natural disaster in the country’s history, damaging 98 percent of the island’s buildings, and killing 57 in a nation of only 73,500 people. Two months after the devastation, a robust domestic response from international donors and the government of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit is helping reconstruction in Dominica pick up pace.

The U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) is partnering with the government’s housing ministry and local stakeholders to undertake a major nationwide study to analyze and assess all of the damage caused by the storm on the island and prepare for reconstruction in Dominica. With damages running into the billions of dollars, the analysis will help the government make decisions on the process of reconstruction in Dominica and assess which areas need the most funding.

“We have more than 100 people going throughout the island to assess all the buildings in Dominica, using an app provided by Microsoft,” said UNDP representative Massimiliano Tozzi to the Jamaica Observer. “The app will collect some very important demographic information that will allow the Dominican government to plan evidence based policies for the next phase.”

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the U.N.’s migration agency, is assisting and training local construction workers to help with reconstruction in Dominica. Teams of local workers trained by the IOM are rebuilding 400 of the most damaged and vulnerable households across Dominica, with building supplies provided by donors including the U.K. and the Netherlands.

Still, the island country needs more outside assistance to build a sustainable recovery, and the road to full reconstruction in Dominica may be a long one. “Housing projects are a great way to keep locals from leaving the island, but we need stronger funding to create as many employment opportunities as possible and to rebuild the lost dwellings,” said Jan-William Wegdam, IOM team leader in Dominica, to the UN News Service.

– Giacomo Tognini
Photo: Flickr