Topic – Canada and the 2010 Haiti Earthquake

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Canada and the 2010 Haiti Earthquake

Haiti is a country located on the island of Hispaniola, which sits between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. The mountainous country has a warm, tropical climate, but that does not make Haiti a tropical paradise for people living there. About 80% of Haitians live in poverty, which means Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.

Natural disasters are especially devastating in countries with widespread poverty. In Haiti, many people live in homes they have constructed themselves, out of whatever materials they could find. These homes cannot stand up to the strong forces that may be part of a natural disaster. Many large buildings in Haiti are also likely to suffer serious damage in a natural disaster because of the lack of building codes in the country. Building codes are rules about how structures must be constructed to make them safe and able to survive natural disasters.

Strong hurricanes are common in Haiti and cause considerable damage. In 2008, three hurricanes hit Haiti. One of these hurricanes caused 77 deaths and destroyed 3000 homes. Almost 12 000 homes that were not destroyed were seriously damaged. When a major earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, the effects were even more devastating.

Here is what an aerial view of a hurricane looks like.

The 2010 Earthquake

On January 12, 2010, a major earthquake happened in Haiti. The epicentre of the earthquake—the place where the shaking was strongest—was just outside Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti. More than 2 million people live in and around

Port-au-Prince. While the exact numbers are not known, it has been estimated that about 230 000 people were killed in the earthquake and about 300 000 people were injured. People who are forced to leave the area where they live are known as displaced people. There were about 1.5 million displaced people in Haiti after the earthquake. Some stayed with relatives or friends in other parts of the country, but many were forced to find shelter in temporary camps set up for displaced people.

Canadians and their Government Respond to the Earthquake

Citizens around the world felt compassion for what Haitians were going through, and they quickly began donating money. Canadians were no exception. They donated about $220 million to charities in Canada that would use the money to help Haiti. The Canadian government matched this amount. About one-third of the total amount raised in Canada was used to meet critical immediate needs, such as constructing emergency shelters and providing medical aid and drinking water.

Providing money was not the only way the Canadian government helped. Government efforts to help Haiti included the following:

This is an image of what the aftermath of an earthquake could look like.

• Sending 2000 members of the Canadian Forces to Port-au-Prince immediately after the earthquake. Along with helping victims of the earthquake, Canadian Forces were involved in security—protecting people and property from crime.

• Sending members of the RCMP and other Canadian police forces to Haiti. These people supported the Haitian National Police by providing

training and advice.

• Making it easier for Haitians with family members in Canada to come to Canada. Over 6000 Haitians were quickly given permission to come to Canada either as permanent residents or temporary visitors.

• Quickly giving approval for adoptions of Haitian children by Canadian families. Many Haitian children became orphans when their parents were killed in the earthquake. Some Canadian families wanted to adopt Haitian orphans.

Canadian NGOs Lend a Hand

Non-government organizations (NGOs) are charitable organizations that are not part of a government. With help from money donated in Canada, Canadian NGOs acted quickly to help Haiti and its people recover from the earthquake. Many of these NGOs had already been working in Haiti before the earthquake struck, so they already had staff on the ground, ready to start working immediately after the earthquake. The Canadian Red Cross, OXFAM Canada, World Vision Canada, and Save the Children Canada are just a few of the Canadian NGOs that provided aid after the earthquake.

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