By Francesca Momplaisir for the Washington Post / The original text appears here
By now, the world has seen the heartrending photos of the aftermath of the Aug. 14 earthquake that devastated Haiti’s southwest, leaving more than 2,000 dead and thousands more injured. The images are reminiscent of those from the 2010 quake that struck the capital, Port-au-Prince. Buildings on the verge of total breakdown lean precariously to one side or, like the National Palace in 2010, crumple like the buckled center of a partially baked cake. More than a decade later, when I visited Port-au-Prince last November, the National Palace still had not been reconstructed, the vacant lot a memorial and a metaphor for a failed state felled by political corruption and nature’s inexorable pummeling.
Last weekend’s earthquake was insult on top of injury — nature’s destructive force striking just over a month after the assassination of Haiti’s president Jovenel Moïse, which worsened ongoing political and social turmoil. But this is Haiti: a country where catastrophes, natural and man-made, are relentless, battering and burying my people at every turn.
This isn’t the first time that political and natural calamities have dealt simultaneous blows to the country. So often, the crises come together, exacerbating and feeding off each other. In the aftermath of natural disasters, funds pour into the country for recovery efforts, leading to greater political avarice and instability. And the merciless political aftershocks make it impossible to restore a nation on its knees or build resistance to further disasters. We saw this in 2010, but the pattern began much earlier.
In 2004, former president Jean-Betrand Aristide fled Haiti amid a public rebellion. A string of natural disasters followed, most notably the murderous Hurricane Jeanne, which took about 3,000 lives. Over the next four years, as the country saw the presidency change hands twice more, the deluge from no fewer than three tropical storms and hurricanes flooded the land, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless or dead.