7 Years After, Remembering the Haitian Earthquake

Cal Tech seismologists Charles Francis Richter and Beno Gutenberg developed the Richter scale in 1935 by to quantify the energy released by an earthquake. The Richter scale defines earthquakes in seven levels from ‘micro’ (less than 2.0 on the scale) to ‘great’ (8.0 or higher). Several million microearthquakes occur every year but are seldom felt. One great earthquake exceeding 8.0 may occur every year; a great earthquake exceeding 9.0 only occurs once every 10 to 50 years. Ten to 20 ‘major’ earthquakes registering between 7.0 and 7.9 occur every year, but we seldom hear about them unless they affect humanly inhabited areas. Follow this link to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) map to see where earthquakes have occurred today.

On January 12, 2010, a major earthquake struck Haiti, an island constantly threatened by hurricanes that march across hurricane alley, an area of warm water in the Atlantic Ocean stretching from the west coast of northern Africa to the east coast of Central America and the Gulf Coast of the Southern United States.

Any earthquake of this magnitude that strikes an inhabited area is a bad one. For example, in 1989, the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay area. Damage was heavy. Sixty-three people lost their lives, and another 3,757 people were reported injured.

Given the infrastructure of Haiti, the impact of the 2010 earthquake was far more devastating. Consider Haiti the day before the earthquake struck …

  • Haiti was 145th of 169 countries in the UN Human Development Index, which is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere
  • More than 70% of people in Haiti were living on less than one dollar per day
  • 86% of people in Port au Prince were living in slum conditions – mostly tightly-packed, poorly-built, concrete buildings.
  • 80% of education in Haiti was provided in often poor-quality private schools, the state system generally provided better education but provided far too few places
  • Half of people in Port-au-Prince had no access to latrines and only one-third has access to tap water

Now consider Haiti the day after the 7.0 magnitude quake struck near the capitol city of Port-au-Prince …

  • 3,500,000 people were affected by the quake
  • 220,000 people estimated to have died
  • 300,000+ people were injured
  • Over 188,383 houses were badly damaged and 105,000 were destroyed by the earthquake (293,383 in total), 1.5m people became homeless
  • After the quake there were 19 million cubic metres of rubble and debris in Port au Prince – enough to fill a line of shipping containers stretching end to end from London to Beirut.
  • 4,000 schools were damaged or destroyed
  • 25% of civil servants in Port au Prince died
  • 60% of Government and administrative buildings, 80% of schools in Port-au-Prince and 60% of schools in the South and West Departments were destroyed or damaged
  • Over 600,000 people left their home area in Port-au-Prince and mostly stayed with host families

At its peak, one and a half million people were living in camps including over 100,000 at critical risk from storms and flooding

Unrelated to the earthquake but causing aid response challenges was the outbreak of cholera in October 2010. By July 2011 5,899 had died as a result of the outbreak, and 216,000 were infected

The numbers are staggering.

It is into this environment that Tony Sanneh brought his vision to empower kids, improve lives and unite communities through the world’s greatest game, soccer. Tony Sanneh and his partners refuse to turn their backs on children who confront ‘9.0’ adversity every day of their young and innocent lives.

You can help, too. The children we serve in Haiti need sponsorship. Your sponsorship commitment funds a child’s schooling for a year, his soccer training, food and equipment. It is through education that we can lead these children to a better life. If you are ready to help, follow this link. Step up and be counted. Any amount will help.