Nine months after the huge earthquake that devastated the Caribbean nation of Haiti, the country is still battling with rubble.
And although it has been fortunate in avoiding a usually rampant tropical storm season, an outbreak of cholera has now emerged.
Furthermore, a study published on Sunday revealed that the worst may be yet to come for Haiti in a possible new cycle of earthquakes.
The state of play
Haiti has successfully avoided the worst possible outcomes that many had feared – famine, deadly epidemics, widespread social disorder and severe damage caused by the summer’s persistent tropical storms (although 12 people died from heavy flooding last week).
This has been a tribute to the impressive aid effort put forth by governments, organisations and volunteers, as well as some help from Mother Nature.
But although the emergency relief has been commendable, the rebuilding process has only just begun.
The government’s first rubble cleanup contract was only recently awarded to an American firm. And it only accounted for US$13.5 million of an expected $1.2 billion set aside for the cost of removing all the debris.
The holdup has been mainly due to poor planning by Haitian authorities and the slow arrival of money from international donors.
The first area to be cleared – six neighbourhoods around the downtown area of Port-au-Prince – is hoped to be cleared by late November in time for the country’s presidential election.
The bulk of the clearing, which will allow Haitians to move back into normal homes, won’t begin until next year.
The cholera outbreak
The most immediate threat facing people at the moment is a recent outbreak of the disease cholera.
This disease is created when human effluent gets into water sources and is then spread by people consuming contaminated water and food.
It is a bacterium that infects the intestine and within five days causes extreme vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and dehydration. Young children and babies are the most vulnerable as they have less fluid in their bodies.
It can be cured relatively easily with antibiotic drugs and rehydration. However, it can also kill very quickly if left untreated.
There have been 3,000 cases reported so far, mainly in the city of Saint-Marc and surround area, where the death toll has quickly risen past 250.
Five cases have emerged in the capital Port-au-Prince, although those people had contracted it from the infected areas and brought it to the city where they noticed the symptoms. They have since been quickly diagnosed and isolated.
As a result, Port-au-Prince is still not yet a designated ‘location of infection’. This is fortunate given over a million survivors of January’s earthquake still live in tent camps there with sub-standard sanitary conditions.
Doctors believe the outbreak has stabilised in recent days, with a decreasing numbers of deaths and cases of hospitalised people being recorded.
Nevertheless, aid agencies have begun distributing soap, water tablets and rehydration salt packs to over 25,000 people in the worst affected areas.
The main cause is thought to be people drinking water from and washing food in the infected Artibonite River which runs through central Haiti.
The real seismic threat
Two reports by American scientists and professors published in the journal Nature Geoscience on Sunday revealed that the fault line originally blamed for the quake was not the real source, and remains a serious threat.
The Enriquillo-Plantain fault has been increasing in seismic strain over the past two centuries, and experts initially thought it was a release in its tension that caused the 7.0 quake in Haiti on January 12.
However, Sunday’s studies revealed it was actually an unmapped “blind” fault that triggered the quake, which has increased the likelihood of a much larger quake or a series of quakes along the Enriquillo fault line, which runs right through Port-au-Prince.
The studies said there is no evidence that any of Enriquillo’s tension was eased during January’s quake, suggesting Haiti could be at the start of a new cycle of earthquakes.
But the scientists stressed they don’t know for certain whether the next earthquake will be in a month or 100 years, although similar situations in Turkey and Indonesia suggest it is likely to be within decades.
It is little comfort for Haitian authorities and the Haitian people who are just starting to pick up the pieces from this year’s quake.
But it’s a stern reminder to the government of the need to create stronger building requirements and make sure people can afford to follow them.
By The Casual Truth