Haiti, “January 12, 2010”

At 4:53 pm on 12 January 2010, a violent earthquake, measuring seven on the Richter Scale, hits Haiti, in the heart of the Caribbean. The quake, one of the most deadly in recent history, brings to its knees one of the world’s poorest countries, where 80% of the population already lives in a condition of debilitating poverty and 54% makes due with less than a dollar a day.

The statistics are dramatic: 222 thousand dead, 310 thousand injured, more than 900 thousand buildings destroyed. The capital of Port-au-Prince, 25 kilometres from the epicentre, suffers enormous damage: the presidential palace, the parliament building, the cathedral, the UN headquarters, four hospitals and the main prison are among the buildings destroyed or seriously damaged, along with a large number of homes and all the primary infrastructures.

The images of desperate people searching for the missing, or for resources for their survival, as well as the state of utter dysfunction into which the country fell, move the entire world, setting in motion the most noteworthy mechanism of humanitarian aid ever recorded for a similar event. Bunt while thousands of people leave Haiti in search of assistance abroad, controversy over the management of the aid further complicates the humanitarian emergency.

Despite the initial outpouring of generosity from many countries, the arrival of the goods made available for the survivors is delayed, and the military and civilian operations, led by the United States, come in for heavy criticism. The chief complaint regards the lack of a plan for reconstruction of the country able to involve the local community while working towards a renewed political and social balance, a situation that places a damper on the hopes of Haitians for a dignified outlook on their future.

After the promises of aid not kept by the international community, as well as the failure of a government too weak to move beyond the phase of paralysis that followed the disaster, the anguish caused by the earthquake is augmented by a fear of being abandoned.