Subject Material

Earthquakes Demolish Haiti

Published: 27.01.2010, Updated: 03.03.2017
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Only twelve days into the New Year, and within less than a minute, lives were changed forever in Haiti, as a powerful earthquake struck at the heart of Port au Prince. Within minutes the news spread like wild fire globally and the world began watching as the disaster unfolded. With pictures and memories of the Tsunami is still in our minds everyone feared the worst.

As the dust settles and the death toll rises from the tragic earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0, people all across the world share hopes and prayers that relief efforts will reach all those in desperate need. Yet one can not help wonder why it seems to take so long for international help to make its way. How does one define the word “long” in connection with natural disasters? For those who linger between life and death, every second is critical.

The world is reacting and help is reaching Haiti daily, however, there are countless challenges that these international aid operations are facing. Planes and trailers eager to reach their destination with food, water and urgently needed medical supplies are experiencing one delay after another. Men, woman and children are starving, dying and crying out for immediate help. In the meantime people are resorting to crime and violence as a means of survival. The city is in chaos even one week after the earth shook. The rest of the world, watches as the events unfold, eager to help in any way. Yet many of us wonder: in this age of globalization and international cooperation, why haven’t we yet …….

One can not help but feel sorry for the people of Haiti who have endured decades of hardship. All eyes are now on this small Caribbean island, and its immediate future rests in the hands of international efforts to provide aid and relief to the millions of Haitians suffering. Long term goals of rebuilding will require political intervention and economical support from the outside world.


Haiti is located on the Hispaniola Island, which lies between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The country encompasses approximately 1/3 of the island, while the remaining east side is home to the Dominican Republic. With a population of close to 10 million people, Haitians have been suffering for decades due to both political and economical turmoil. It is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and has been controlled by the Spanish, French and the US. Their official language is French. After countless years of dictatorships and coups, Haiti finally had their first democratic election in May of 2006, electing both a president and establishing a parliament.


  1. When a natural disaster of this scale occurs, what challenges does one face? Why have international efforts been hampered? Why does it take so long for help to arrive?
  2. Why do poor countries suffer more after a natural disaster than others? What are the possible causes and effects?
  3. Large scale disasters often result in chaos; fighting, plundering, acts of crime and outbreaks of violence. Why? How does one create order in situations of chaos, particularly in disaster zones? What would you do if you were in a similar situation as the Haitians?
  4. What role do the media play in coverage of disastrous events? Do poorer countries receive less attention?



Prepare a short oral presentation on one of these suggested topics:

  1. The country of Haiti: Find out more about the country of Haiti. Why is their economy so poor? What political unrest has there been?
  2. Do some research and find out where the largest population of Haitians are located outside of Haiti. Did you know there is actually a place called “Little Haiti”? Make a short presentation of your findings.
  3. Find out about some of the largest international humanitarian organizations and make a short presentation.

Suggested sites:

(Right-click to open in new window)

  4.  (this website offers information on the role the media plays in events of disaster and looks into why poor countries suffer the most).
  5.  (offers complete Haiti earthquake coverage)