Exactly six months have passed since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti by taking the lives at least 250,000 Haitians and the work to rebuild the country is creeping along slowly. The government seems to be at a loss for how to redevelop themselves after two million people were left without a home. How does the poorest country in the western hemisphere establish priorities for rebuilding when the struggle to survive was present even before the quake?
With relief efforts and financial support still trickling in from across the globe, Haiti has an opportunity to use a devastating situation as an opportunity to reinvent themselves and establish a safer and more self-sustaining sense of living as they focus on rebuilding everything ranging from small homes to communities that incorporate farming, education and health. It seems as though Haiti is more concerned with keeping their heads above water as they try and fill in the cracks, so is it the responsibility of the rest of the world to help guide them in the redevelopment of Port-au-Prince? More than financial assistance, does Haiti need urban planning advice and education in the areas of basic construction methods and structural engineering?
Experts are recommending that donor nations offer assistance only with the requirement that the Haitian government enforce and follow a new strict set of building codes. Before the quake, Haiti had no set of building codes to keep builders and citizens accountable. Many buildings in Haiti are concrete structures with steel bars that are too rigid to withstand strong winds and seismic forces.
Significantly less damage was produced and the death toll was drastically reduced when an earthquake struck Chile soon after Haiti was devastated by their own. How can this be when the earthquake in Chile was 500 times more powerful than the quake in Haiti? A number of factors play into answering this question, yet much of it lies in the fact that Chile is a nation that has put energy and focus on modernizing and educating the public in areas of building safety and construction. In the 1960’s Chile experienced a devastating earthquake that enabled them to set up a seismic building code to prevent future devastation on an astronomical scale. For Haiti to move forward, a proper building code must be enacted.
Now that Haiti has a chance to reinvent themselves, greater attention needs to be paid to the safety and construction methods of the new buildings. One country that seems to be lending a hand beyond financial support in this area is Jamaica.With a similar geological and climatic conditions to Haiti, Jamaica recently went through their own redevelopment of building codes. They have generously offered their support and building code to the Haitian government as rebuilding begins to move forward.
As Haiti tries to keep its head above water, maybe its neighboring countries will come along with support that goes beyond the present and stretches far into rebuilding the Haiti of the future.
Image courtesy of Sam Porter