Haiti is a nation that is located in the Caribbean continent and has a population of approximately 9.9 people. The people in Haiti speak French and Haitian languages. It neighbours the Dominican Republic and its capital city known as Port-au-Prince. Port-au-Prince is considered to be the political capital of Haiti. It has a longitude of -72 and latitude of 18.54 with an elevation of 44 meters above the sea level. Haiti was struck by an earthquake on the 12 January 2010 an occurrence that had been predicted and cautioned by a scientist, but the government did not take disaster management measures. The paper will, therefore, explore the disaster by Identifying risks and impact on the community, explaining psychological assessment, and discussing community resources as well as outreach.
Exploring the Disaster
The Haiti disaster of the earthquake that took place on 12 January 2010 was not only catastrophic but one of its kind that had not been experienced for over 200 years. The earthquake had a magnitude of 7.0 Mw, and it is believed to have originated from near a town known as Leogane. Experts explain that one of the causes of the earthquake was the geographic location of Haiti which is said to be sitting above two tectonic plates which slide past one another. When they jagged their edges, they ground one another, resulting in the fatal quake. It is also estimated to have been occurred 25 kilometres to the west of Port-au-Prince, which is Haiti's capital.
Approximately two weeks after the earthquake, there were about 52 aftershocks that were recorded. The damaged was severe as several casualties were recorded. It is approximated that between 100,000 to 160,000 people lost their lives. The figure of people who lost their lives is still a dispute because the Haitian government estimates the number to be between 260,000 to 300,000 people. Port-au-Prince is one of the cities that were greatly affected, but there are also other cities such as Jacmel that were also hit by the catastrophe. In the city of Port-au-Port major landmarks were damaged, for instance the presidential palace, a cathedral and the national assembly among others.
Risk and Impact on the Community
The threat of the earthquake had both economic and social impacts on the community. One of the economic consequences that the disaster brought is the shrinking of Haiti's gross domestic product by 5.1 % (Amadeo 2019). Gross domestic product is affected by the overall production activities taking place in a nation, including its imports and exports. Production activities were greatly hampered because almost all the major roads, as well as ports, were rendered inaccessible. In this regard, it meant that raw materials, as well as other requisite resources, could not be accessed for several days leading to no productive activity carried out in the region. Research indicates that Haiti's economy had started to grow only to be taken back again by the earthquake.
The economy had begun to expand after President George Bush had signed for partnership with the Haiti nation through the encouragement act of 2006. The agreement is said to have allowed for free-duty exports to America, and this was a great milestone in the export business for Haiti. It is estimated that its exports had reached approximately $575 million. When the earthquake struck besides activities being affected a lot of relief was given to Haiti and it was charged at a rate between 1% and 3% because it was made via credit cards. The effect was a new cost that ate into Haiti's income. Amadeo explains "The earthquake shrank Haiti's gross domestic product by 5.1%. It crippled the main airport, most of the ports, and almost all the paved roads. That made it difficult for relief efforts to reach the victims. The quake damaged 294,383 homes and destroyed 106,000 of them" (Amadeo 2019).
Similarly, 60% of government offices and 80% of schools and colleges were destroyed, and all schooling activities were affected in the places where the earthquake struck. Also, hospitals and other social amenities were also killed, marking a significant blow to the country's infrastructure. A cost was later incurred into the reconstruction of the ruins so that education could be brought back to normalcy. Moreover, several lives were, and others were maimed for life. Miles & Green (2011) explain that hospital records and equipment were ruined such that patients were treated in poor conditions.
They further explain that surgical operations such as amputations were done in shifts with insufficient anesthesia. The vulnerable populations lost their lives as they could not survive the adverse conditions. Young children meant a reduction of Haiti's future generation (Miles & Green 2011). The youth who would be the nation's productive age also reduced as several of them were trapped in the quake while they in schools and colleges.
The victims and others were psychologically affected by trauma. One of the psychological effects that they went through was mental disturbance caused by the violent occurrences of the earthquake. The rapid appearance of the events was ugly and disturbing to anyone who encountered them firsthand or even saw others go through it (Miles & Green 2011). Those who attended to the victim such as doctors, nurses, as well as friends and family, suffered vicarious trauma. Besides, the people who lost their loved ones became psychologically disturbed as they went through moments of grief. After the quake had taken place, there were rumors that more aftershocks would occur and this threw people into the more and psychological disturbance.
Furthermore, families also encountered psychological distress for being separated from their loved ones, and some did not know whether their people were dead or had been buried because they could not find their bodies. The situation became worse because people could not access mental health care, as several hospitals had been destroyed by the disaster. They were also mentally disturbed from seeing dead bodies lying in ruins (Miles & Green 2011). Some were being pulled out of the rabbles in deplorable conditions causing psychological distress to those who were seeing them. The people who were injured and maimed for life also encountered mental disturbance because they could not easily cope with the experience of being given care and being provided for (Miles & Green 2011). Most of them would feel being a burden to their families and caregivers.
Another impact is that most people in the community were displaced and they had no place to call home. They had to seek shelter fin camps and other areas set aside by rescue teams. Their comfort was affected, and those who had small children suffered as they could not easily cope with the cold and rains in the camps (Miles & Green 2011). Basic needs were also accessed by the mercies of well-wishers and donations from the government which time could not be enough to cater for all the people who had been affected. Moreover, some people suffered from gender-based violence, especially women who became victims of rape. Women and children became the majority of victims because they were vulnerable populations. People also suffered from ailments such as pneumonia because they were stuck in the cold for several days before they could get any help. Financial hardships because of the loss of employment, took a toll on people, plunging them into stress.
The responders were also significantly affected as they were forced to endure miserable conditions to save the lives of the victims. One of the challenges faced was lack of sufficient tools and equipment to respond to the situation. Some of the materials required included protective gears as well as machines such as excavators and other lifting machines which were not sufficient. Besides, logistical challenges also hit the responders as they did not have easy ways to reach the people who had been trapped in rubles (Robbins 2010). There was traffic all over the place, including airports leading to planes being turned away, leading to delay in relief food. David Downey, one of the heads of the rescue team, stated "The life clock is ticking away," said Chief David C. Downey, one of 80 members of Miami-Dade Rescue who were waiting for transportation to get out of the airport on Thursday. "The sooner we can get to work and find people who are buried, the better."(Robbins 2010 retrieved from the New York Times). It is an indication that despite the responders being ready to help the people who had been buried, their mission was affected by logistical issues. The planes that carried water and medical supplies delayed because of lack of a place to land so that cargo could be distributed. Reporters also explain that there was no fuel for the planes, and this made them grounded instead of being used to ferry more supplies to help the people.
Assessing for trauma-induced psychiatric disorders in First responders
Most of the first responders in the disaster site include; police officers, army, Red Cross team doctors and nurses, among others. In most cases, the first responders do not know what to expect ahead in their duty. In the Haiti earthquake catastrophe, first responders encountered trauma as a result of what being in direct contact with the scene and the victims of the disaster (Russo 2014). In assessing trauma-induced psychiatric disorders in first responders, there are a couple of issues to look out for in them. One of the ways through which psychiatric disorders caused by trauma can be assessed is by looking at the behavioral characteristics of the responders.
The aspects to look out in their behavior are the inability to manage their emotions, and in most cases, they are continually having outbursts and picking up quarrels with people unnecessarily. Most of them will tend to be irritated by small issues that would otherwise not provoke them under ordinary circumstances (Russo 2014). Besides, they will be withdrawn from their families and friends after giving service to the victims for a given period of time. Another issue to look out for in assessing the trauma psychiatric disorder of first responders is their lack of participation in activities that they enjoy doing them under standard days and circumstances.
Some people also will experience insomnia and cannot wholly sleep when they are supposed to be resting or sleeping. Another aspect to look out for in determining trauma-induced psychiatric disorders is re-experiencing, which usually makes them have a flashback of what they experienced in their process of helping the victims. They develop overwhelming fears making them have rapid heartbeats and nightmares, among others.
The vicarious trauma scale (VTS) can also be used in the assessment of trauma in first responders where a seven-item range is used, and each item is rated as either strongly agree or strongly disagree. Where the responders strongly agree on the scale, it implies that they have psychiatric disorders brought about by the trauma (Russo 2014). Another way to determine psychiatric disorders caused by trauma is through the use of the secondary traumatic stress scale- Italian version (STSS-I). The scale utilizes a 17-item questionnaire that seeks to establish information form the affected and the more questions answered as agreed implies that the person is experiencing a psychiatric issue (Russo 2014). The factors are categorized into arousal and intrusion. Another way to assess is through the use of confirmatory factor analysis, and which is used to affirm findings from the vicarious trauma scale.
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