Haiti Earthquake Case Study Cool Geography Game


Many countries responded to appeals for aid, pledging funds and dispatching rescue and medical teams, engineers and support personnel.  Communication systems, air, land, and sea transport facilities, hospitals, and electrical networks had been damaged by the earthquake, which slowed rescue and aid efforts. There was much confusion over who was in charge, air traffic congestion, and problems with prioritisation of flights further complicated early relief work.  Port-au-Prince's morgues were quickly overwhelmed with many tens of thousands of bodies having to be buried in mass graves.  As rescues tailed off, supplies, medical care and sanitation became priorities.  Delays in aid distribution led to angry appeals from aid workers and survivors, and looting and sporadic violence were observed.

Management after the quake.   

The US raised $48million to help Haiti recover after the earthquake.  The EU gave $330 million and the World Bank waived the countries debt repayments for 5 years. The Senegalese offered land in Senegal to any Haitians who wanted it!  6 months after the quake, 98% of the rubble remained not cleared, some still blocking vital access roads.   The number of people in relief camps of tents and tarps since the quake was 1.6 million, and almost no transitional housing had been built.  Most of the camps had no electricity, running water, or sewage disposal, and the tents were beginning to fall apart. Crime in the camps was widespread, especially against women and girls. Between 23 major charities, $1.1 billion had been collected for Haiti for relief efforts, but only two percent of the money had been released One year after the earthquake 1 million people remained displaced, 6 months after the quake 98% of the rubble was still where it fell.  These have grave consequences for the long term development of Haïti.


The Dominican Republic which neighbours Haiti offered support and accepted some refugees. Medicin San frontiers, a charity, tried to help casualties whilst the USA took charge of trying to coordinate Aid distribution. 

Case study: earthquake

Haiti is part of a large Caribbean island called Hispaniola. The Dominican Republic is located to the east of Haiti and covers over half of the island.

Cause of the earthquake

Haiti lies right on the boundary [boundary: The region where two or more tectonic plates meet. It is a zone of intense seismic activity. ]  of the Caribbean and North American plates. There was slippage along a conservative plate boundary [conservative plate boundary: Areas between two crustal plates that are moving past each other in opposite directions or at different speeds. ]  that runs through Haiti.

On 12 January 2010, a magnitude 7 earthquake hit Haiti at 16:53 local time. The earthquake’s epicentre was 25 km west of Port-au-Prince, the capital. Most people, businesses and services were located in the capital.

Social impacts of the earthquake (effects on people)

  • 3 million people affected.

  • Over 220,000 deaths.

  • 300,000 injured.

  • 1.3 million made homeless.

  • Several hospitals collapsed.

Economic impacts of the earthquake (effects on money and jobs)

  • 30,000 commercial buildings collapsed.

  • Businesses destroyed.

  • Damage to the main clothing industry.

  • Airport and port damaged.

Many of the effects were immediate or primary, eg injuries from falling buildings. Some secondary effects didn’t happen until many months later, eg cholera outbreaks. The effects of this earthquake were particularly bad because of the following reasons:

  • There were very few earthquake-resistant buildings.

  • Buildings and other structures were poorly built.

  • The epicentre [epicentre: The point on the Earth's surface directly above the focus of an earthquake. ]  was near to the capital.

  • There were few resources to rescue or treat injured people.

Response to the earthquake

Haiti is a very poor country without the money and resources [resource: Anything that is useful to people. ]  to redevelop. It is one of the least developed countries in the world with most Haitians living on $2 or less per day, about £1.30.

Because there were few earthquake-resistant buildings [earthquake resistant buildings: Building designs which help to minimise the effect of earthquakes.] , the devastation was massive. Many buildings simply collapsed or were damaged beyond repair.

Primary responses

  • Neighbouring Dominican Republic provided emergency water and medical supplies as well as heavy machinery to help with search and rescue underneath the rubble, but most people were left to dig through the rubble by hand.

  • Emergency rescue teams arrived from a number of countries, eg Iceland.

  • Medical teams began treating the injured – temporary field hospitals were set up by organisations like the International Committee of the Red Cross.

  • GIS [GIS: Geographical Information System. Electronic maps with layers added to display information about the area.]  was used to provide satellite images and maps of the area, to assist aid organisations.

  • People from around the world watched the news from Haiti on TV and through social networks. Many pledged money over their mobile phones.

  • United Nations troops and police were sent to help distribute aid [aid: The giving of resources or money from one country or donor to another.]  and keep order.

Secondary responses

  • Money was pledged by organisations and governments to assist in rebuilding, but only slow progress had been made after one year.

  • After one year, there were still 1,300 camps.

  • ‘Cash for work’ programs are paying Haitians to clear rubble.

  • Small farmers are being supported – so crops can be grown.

  • Schools are being rebuilt.

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