search button
newscenter logo
Monday, January 24, 2022

Follow SDSU Follow SDSU on Twitter Follow SDSU on Facebook SDSU RSS Feed

A father holds his son after Tuesday's 7.0 earthquake in Haiti A father holds his son after Tuesday's 7.0 earthquake in Haiti

Learning Lessons from the Haitian Earthquake

An SDSU public health professor talks about the challenges facing Haiti and the importance of preparedness.
By Golda Akhgarnia

As Haiti tries to make sense of the horrific aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake, people worldwide are wondering how the nation will react and what needs to be done.

According to Emmanuel Rudatsikira, director of SDSU’s Global Emergency and Preparedness Response Program (GEPAR), the most important thing is to respond in a coordinated fashion.

“The immediate needs are health-related,” said Rudatsikira. “In an earthquake, 90 percent of casualties are due to building collapse. Other immediate needs include shelter, food, water and sanitation for the thousands of people who have lost their homes. Results from the rapid health assessment will guide the relief efforts.”

Haiti's specific challenges

Rudatsikira, who has worked in Haiti on two different projects, pointed out some of the obstacles facing the island nation.

“The specific challenges that Haiti faces are related to its vulnerability. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere; it has very limited infrastructure. Aside from deaths and injuries, earthquakes cause huge economic losses to society.”

Warnings should have been heeded

For years, scientists had warned that Haiti was at risk for an earthquake, a warning that – if heeded – could have saved many lives.

“If there had been building codes in Haiti, the death toll would have been much less than what it is now,” said Rudatsikira. “Likewise, many deaths would have been prevented if lifesaving first aid was provided right away and medical care had been available in the first few hours after the quake.” 

Lessons for the future

Rudatsikira worked in Haiti on two occasions: once as an evaluator of a USAID funded project, and the other to research the relationship between the use of traditional medicine and immunization.

He added that the lesson learned from the earthquake in Haiti is the lesson learned after each natural disaster: countries at risk need to focus on mitigation and preparedness in case of future disasters.

For now, Haiti will have to rely on the help of others to make it through this devastating time.

“The extent of the devastation will require resources beyond Haiti’s reach. The good news is that the international community seems committed to reaching out and helping.”

Click here to find out how you can help victims of the earthquake.

Related Stories:
Emmanuel Rudatsikira discusses the Haiti earthquake with KUSI News.

SDSU Staff Piloting Haiti Relief Efforts