Today marks the 1 year anniversary of the January 12, 2010 earthquake that devastated Port au Prince, Haiti.
Is there any progress?
95% of the rubble still remains uncleared. Buildings are still leveled, including the national palace. Thousands of people are living in tents. It ain’t pretty.
But there is one bright spot: the Merché en Fer, or Iron Market is about to re-open (NYT):
…a huge and beloved 19th-century bazaar called the Marché en Fer, or Iron Market, has risen again, its whimsical exterior, including clock tower and four minarets, gleaming with fresh paint. In the coming days, this wonderland of commerce — once packed with nearly a thousand merchants selling art, pigeons, turtles, dried starfish, herbs, potions, perfumes, produce and cheap Chinese housewares — will bustle back to life.
This is no small thing. Given Haiti’s rough year (earthquake, cholera, election turmoil) it’s worth celebrating. In my opinion, it is economic development at its purest – fomenting the exchange of goods and ideas, a place for jobs and opportunity.
What about the Dominican Republic?
You may be curious about the effects of the earthquake next door in the Dominican Republic. I’ve asked several people about this.
While there was no structural damage in the DR, everyone felt the quake. It was a very strange feeling, like the whole earth slowly shifted several yards, and then moved back. Like the pitch of a sailboat on a wave. Some felt dizzy and seasick, others thought their mind was playing games.
Where is Anderson Cooper now?
Notice also how quickly the newscasts and celebrity benefit concerts fade, and how much work is still left. Helping others may start as an feeling of compassion and inspiration, but it must persevere by discipline, commitment, frustration, and innovation if it is to have any lasting impact.
This is not a dig on the newscasters or celebrities. I believed they really tried to help, and did help to raise awareness and money. But that is not the end goal – results are – and they are more difficult. It is too easy to let lights and cameras determine our compassion.
So now what?
The truth is, not everyone can help Haiti directly. It’s a messy situation. But I’d encourage you to do two things today. 1) Pray for Haiti. They need it. 2) If you donated any money toward Haitian relief efforts, try to find out what your money has done. Has the organization’s relief efforts had an impact? Better-informed donors = more accountable organizations = better long-run development results.