On the afternoon of January 12, 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. Shoddy construction compounded the scale of the devastation; many buildings collapsed on their occupants. Government figures put the dead at over 300,000, with as many injured, in a city of 2.5 million. Overnight, more than 1.3 million people — nearly a tenth of Haiti’s population — were homeless. The overall damage estimates amounted to $7.9 billion, 120 percent of Haiti’s 2009 GDP. The aftermath brought immediate, extreme challenges: 40 percent unemployment, widespread hunger, and frequent disease outbreaks caused by poor sanitation.
The international response was instantaneous and generous. Donor nations pledged $5 billion in short-term aid and $10 billion over the long term. They also committed to work through government mechanisms to build the country’s capacity for self-sufficiency. Four years on, their efforts have unquestionably yielded progress: 90 percent of the homeless have been resettled, 80 percent of the rubble has been cleared, and joblessness continues to decline. There is even some promise of new foreign investment in Haiti.
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