Wednesday, January 13, 2010

An Earthquake in the Land of the Poorest of the Poor

Haiti, the small nation next to the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean, is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. Chronic unemployment mixed with political corruption and limited international investment mark the decades of poverty.

An now an earthquake has crumpled homes and other buildings. More are now homeless, hungry, without water. The woman on the right seems to embody the sadness of the lastest misfortune and its cumulitive effect on the people of Haiti.

While on one hand, I cry out "Why, oh why??", I also ask, as an engineer, why can't the buildings be constructed to better withstand earthquakes. It's not rocket science. It is easy enough to develop a standard design for these types of concrete reinforced buildings, as I have seen done in Peru. Yes, poverty and the ineffective hand of government have resulted in people doing the what they can with what they have. But this often means using poor or weak concrete, or only baked bricks and no reinforcing.

Besides the necessary relief to help feed the new homeless, there is also a need for groups such as Engineers without Borders to find a way to educate the people on better construction methods, to prevent results like below.

I urge all my readers to support the relief and rebuilding efforts in Haiti.

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