Japan Earthquake vs Haiti Earthquake

Est Reading Time: 2 min

[UPDATE: follow-up post here]

There has been a huge reaction to the Japan earthquake in terms of media coverage, personal condolences and anguish on social media etc etc. While that’s a good thing I’m very dismayed at how much less support was shown in the Haiti earthquake especially considering how much worse it was.

Japan’s death toll is around 1600 at the moment. This is expected to rise but I think is unlikely to be much more than 10,000. Haiti’s death toll estimates vary from 92,000 to 316,000 with most seeming giving an estimate of over 200,000.

The number of people made homeless in Japan is currently unknown but this doesn’t seem to be a major problem from the news coverage. The Haiti earthquake made 1,500,000 to 1,800,000 people homeless.

In the recovery process for Japan, I would expect most of those who have been made homeless to be in some kind of accommodation within weeks. In Haiti, virtually no rebuilding has gone on and almost 2,000,000 people still live in makeshift tent camps one year on.

Although most natural disasters carry some kind of turmoil in terms of looting and other crime, I doubt very much there will be serious incidents in Japan. In Haiti, the tent camps are hell on earth. Armed gangs roam the streets gang-raping women and girls as young as several months. Anyone can break into any tent at any time. Police appear to be complicit.

When an earthquake hits an industrialised country such as Japan, there is unlikely to be a serious outbreak of infectious disease. In Haiti, there was a massive cholera outbreak. Furthermore, most people living in the camps have no access to clean drinking water and with lack of sanitation are living in a cesspool of human sewage. Combine that with a merciless sun beaming down every day and the atmosphere is demonic.

All in all, the consequences of the Haiti earthquake are many orders of magnitude more serious. I’d say that even NOW with one year of history, Haiti is still in a much bigger state of emergency than Japan — at least from a humanitarian perspective. So while it’s obviously good that the current tragedy has provoked a strong international response, the lack of parity with other disasters sickens me. And that’s just comparing earthquake-to-earthquake, ignoring calamities that kill many more people. Despite being dramatic, natural disasters kill much less people than things like malnutrition and starvation, malaria and tuberculosis.

Anyhow, end of rant for today. Tomorrow I’ll take a brief look at the reasons behind the lack of parity in responses.