On January 12, Haiti was struck by a powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.0 on the Richter scale. The earthquake has caused a large amount of destruction. Buildings and homes have crumbled, including the parliament, a prison, fire-stations, and even the National Palace (the home of the Haitian president). Roads and ports are blocked, electricity has been lost, and most phones aren’t working. It is estimated that about 200,000 people have died, and over a million people are without a home. Even worse, Haiti is still being shaken by strong aftershocks (smaller sized earthquakes that happen after the main earthquake).
Many countries around the world are sending food, water, and medical help to Haiti. The biggest challenge has been getting the aid to the people. The main seaport at Port-au-Prince, the capital, is heavily damaged. Therefore, all aid has to be flown in. But blocked roads, the lack of vehicles, and the shortage of fuel have made it even more difficult. A lot of food and water has also been dropped out of planes.
Haiti is on an island in the Caribbean. It shares the island with another country, the Dominican Republic. Hundreds of years ago, the island that Haiti is on was inhabited by the Taino Indians. Christopher Columbus, a famous explorer, landed there in 1492 and claimed the island for Spain. Most of the Taino Indians were either killed or died because of diseases brought by the Spanish. Almost 200 years later, the French got the western part of the island (today called Haiti). Many African slaves had been brought to Haiti to work. The African slaves rebelled and gained independence in 1804. Haiti became the world’s first independent black-led republic. French and Haitian Creole (a language that mixes up French with some African languages) are the official languages of the country. Haiti has a tropical climate and lots of mountains. In fact, the name “Haiti” is derived from a Taino word that means “the land of mountains”.
Image Credit: UNDP for Haiti National Palace photo