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Haiti Earthquake and its Aftermath

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 2913 words Published: 19th Oct 2021

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On January 12th 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit 25km west of Port au Prince the capital of Haiti with 3 million people affected, and between 150,000 and 250,000 dead (Week 11 lecture).

Picture 1. Haiti Earthquake Map (Week 11 lecture) Picture 2. Haiti Earthquake (Week 11 lecture)

Picture 1 and 2 above shows the miserable situation that Haiti has endured in the 2010 Earthquake, and only 132 survivors have been saved from the nearly 1800 international rescuers according to the journalism video played during the lecture, which was a crisis treated with extremely poor relief. According to the statistics, more than $8 billion in damage is estimated, and a year after the disaster, more than a million people are still living in tents (Aldrich, 2012).

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So what does social capital in disasters looks like? It's collective action in preparation for a disaster with flows of information such as early warnings, grassroots relief efforts, and also collective action in recovery efforts (Week 11 lecture). There are also limits to social capital, for example, bonding capital can reinforce existing inequalities in the community, using social capital as an excuse for policy neglect, and social capital unequally distributed causing reproduce imbalance (Week 11 lecture). This paper will be explaining the concepts of social capital such as its strengths and limitations, and also using the 2010 Haiti Earthquake as a case study for further study on how does social capital impact the preparation, response and recovery these three stages of the disaster.

Concepts of Social Capital

Despite frequent claims of the importance of communities and individuals affected by the crisis, the humanitarian assistance system remains in many ways a top-down, centralized system, often ignoring the power of social networks and social capital of the people affected by the crisis (Aldrich, 2015). Therefore it is vital to seek what social capital is and what roles it played during different stages of a disaster. It will give us a better idea of the structure of social capital by looking at it through a time phase from Figure 1, and it is not hard to see that social capital has both its advantage and weakness as the individuals and the community has been affected differently before, during, and after the disaster.

Figure 1. Time and phases of disasters and social capital (Aida, 2013)

A primary goal of community development, especially related to disaster resilience, is the formation of social capital, which, in a broad sense refers to the resources accumulated through interpersonal relationships (Dufty, 2012). This means that the need for social capital is based on the progress of community development, a close-knit community will often have better survival rate after a disaster and such community will also have better prevention and reconversion ability.

Figure 2. Goals and ways that social media can help build community disaster resilience.

Disaster risk reduction


Emergency management


Community development

- Goal:'Minimisation of residual risk'

- Informing others of disaster risks

- Discussing andplanning ways to minimise risk

- Coordinating and managing tasks

- Conducting post-event learning to improve

- Goal:'Safe communities throughshared responsibility'

- Providing emergency intelligence through crowdsourcing

- Helping people prepare for disasters

- Communicating warnings to others

- Coordinating community response and recovery

- Conducting post-event learning to improve

- Goal:'Formationofsocial capital fordisasters'

- Increasing and improving social networks, leadership and support systems

- Providing support to people during and after a disaster

- Conducting post-event learning to improve

Figure 2. Social Media Ways to help build community disaster resilience (Dufty, 2012)

Several researchers assessed the value of social media in forming social capital, and they found that social media makes it easier for people to interact with others regardless of location or time (Tierney, 2012). Social media is also an essential factor when looking at how people can use their social capital within an area to its maximum potential, and Figure 2 above shows us some ways that social media could help significantly in a disaster situation.

Impact of Social Capital in 2010 Haiti Earthquake - Preparation

Any change in social capital before the disaster is limited in time and effect; as a result, post-disaster social networks are likely to reflect precisely what happened before the disaster (Aldrich, 2012). The housing recovery for example, which is a cornerstone of the overall social recovery, is difficult to achieve because it is complex, multifaceted, and subject to many factors such as market forces, pre-disaster social and community physical flaws, and types of policy management that manage risk and resilience (Bolin, 2018). In the risk reduction infrastructure lecture, we studied that there are different types of infrastructures that are giving out the prediction and early warnings of a disaster. For example, long term preparation and planning includes development restrictions in risk areas, emergency planning like the sea wall in Japan from Picture 3; and there are also short term preparation such as preparation for stocking up on supply, removing unsafe trees, reinforce buildings, evacuation, shelter, etc. (Week 9 lecture).

Picture 3. Japan Sea Walls (Week 9 lecture)

Regardless of the extent of the damage they suffered, companies that were in poor economic condition before the disaster, or sectors of the economy that had high turnover before the catastrophe, tended to experience relatively poor recovery results (Tierney, 2012). This is also true when looking at the whole community as a whole, Haiti for example, was weak on infrastructures and social capitals up front, making it almost impossible to have any kinds of preparation for a disaster like an earthquake happened in 2010. The January 2010 earthquake in Haiti was a disaster, not only because of the loss of life but also because it destroyed the country's fragile state administrative capacity, it is argued that an international strategy to promote NGOs as national substitutes has increased the vulnerability of Haitian national institutions (Zanotti, 2010).

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For families, the main pre-disaster variables include household income and wealth, type of insurance coverage, homeownership, community access, measures of civic participation, the race of household heads, measures of family health and well-being, and the extent to which families participate in pre-disaster mitigation and preparedness (Tierney, 2012). Thus for a country with such weak federal funds in basic needs such as clean water source, residence housing, hospital, it had a hard time keeping people safe even before the earthquake, let alone during and after.

Impact of Social Capital in 2010 Haiti Earthquake - Response

Social capital is a kind of assets, and it allows the citizens of the people through formal and informal networks realise the goal of individual or collective, although most of the literature on social capital is emphasised the benefits of it, as for the Mafia family and gang institute of organized crime, it also has disadvantages. Considering corruption government buying off the gangs to satisfy the government's needs, such as forced demolition that is very commonly seen on the news, and these drawbacks sure show the negative sides of social capital. Haiti is known as a country with unstable governance because of the inequality exists between different levels of social class, and this often delays the response when there is a disaster.

Figure 3. Tents in Delmas (Rahill, 2014) Figure 4. Anba prelas in Delmas (Rahill, 2014)

One consequence of social capital is that it exacerbates inequalities that existed before the earthquake, creating new inequalities among the displaced and the most socially and economically vulnerable (Rahill, 2014). As an example, Pétion-Ville women's focus group participants pointed out that while the new tents were available to people with connections, conditions in their weather-beaten tents and makeshift tents covered with long sticks, sheets, cardboard and plastic tarps known as anba prelas were poor (Rahill, 2014). As seen in Figures 3 and 4, there is a significant difference between the tents that the NGOs has provided, and the other ones that the regular people get, all caused by the power of relationship. Those who do not have shelters and are forced to live in temporary camps (anba prelas) sometimes respond to the injustice of the resource allocation process among displaced persons by destroying the NGO provided tents of their own camp neighbours or those living in nearby camps (Rahill, 2014).

Policymakers can use the positive aspects of social capital of displaced populations during post-disaster shelter reconstruction so that people affected by disasters are not helpless and passive victims, but can help themselves in the recovery process. Social capital is such an ability that agencies involved in housing reconstruction can seek to document the capacities of various community groups and the pre-disaster resources of those communities, as well as the post-disaster impact on the affected communities. That way, they can also involve these people in the decision-making process to ensure that housing programmes take into account the needs and priorities of disaster-affected communities. But in the specific case of Haiti, there are not many proper shelters beforehand for the government to be even documented therefore is meaningless to the response of such earthquake.

Impact of Social Capital in 2010 Haiti Earthquake - Recovery

Despite the dramatic changes in people's movement patterns after the earthquake disaster on January 12, 2010, the predictability of the Haitian people's movement during the three months following the earthquake was very high (Lu, 2012). Research shown people would not like to evacuate their home town even after the disaster because one they have no access to other places, second they are not able to fit into a new community without relationships. When considering the recovery stage of the Haiti disaster, it is essential to use facts and case studies to show the degree of people live in Haiti that were affected by the disaster and how resilience they are. We should call for recognition of the interlinked nature of solidarity proximity and stability of existing markets in urban planning and humanitarian approaches to improving urban food security and post-disaster recovery (Smith, 2019). A study done by David Smith was finding the recovery status of Haiti after the 2010 earthquake by looking at the three market places and interviewing the sellers in Port-au-Prince.

Map 1. Residential Locations of Interviewed Customers in Relation to the Marketplace (Smith, 2019)

NOTES: Places of residence are approximate, and are based on names of streets or places given by interviewees.

Walking distance is theoretical: 15-minute walking distance = 1,200 metres.

Map 1 shows the areas of those three local markets located in Haiti after the earthquake, and the small dots show the estimated residents' home location. So by looking directly at the map, we can tell most customers don't buy products from other towns' market place even though they are not that far apart and that Port-au-Prince is the capital, which shows the power of social capital and relations between consumers and sellers. It would be useful to see the reactions of how the stallholders think of the impact of the 2010 earthquake and compare it with other factors that they face on an everyday basis after the disaster.

As seen in Figure 5 below, the traders believe that the earthquake is a significant hazard toward their business. Yet, many other factors heavily influenced them as well, such as fire, security issues, poor physical infrastructures, etc. Traders continue to trade in the same locations because they rely on regular customers to stabilise their trades. Traders also offer incentives in exchange for frequent customer visits and loyalty, thus becoming a reliable source of revenue, so to maintain this, their trading locations must be easily accessible and well known to customers (Smith, 2019). The importance of trading locations also became apparent when the traders interviewed were asked why they could not move (Smith, 2019). Therefore social capital does help when the recovery stage is in progress, with people's connection, a more stable bazaar would form, so that people can feed their family better and rebuild their home in Haiti.

Figure 5. The main hazardous events and conditions mentioned by interviewed traders as affecting them (% of traders reporting these) (Smith, 2019)

NOTE: N = 104 traders.


In addition to communitarian, networked, institutional, and collaborative perspectives, academia tracks social capital from three dimensions: bonding, bridging, and linking (Aldrich, 2012).

Bonding social capital is about the fundamental relationship between family members; bridging social capital is more towards the society that is a network regardless racial and religious divisions; and lastly linking social capital is a network of trust relationships between people who interact through explicit, formal, or institutionalized power in the society (Aldrich, 2012). While looking at Haiti in specific, it doesn't have a good starting point to stretch its social capital power in the preparation and response stage, but it does show some trends of positive social networking abilities in the recovery stage after the 2010 earthquake. Therefore further improvement in the development of the country is needed from the Haitian government and leaders to strengthen its social capital.


Aida, J., Kawachi, I., Subramanian, S.V. and Kondo, K., 2013. Disaster, social capital, and health. In Global perspectives on social capital and health (pp. 167-187). Springer, New York, NY.

Aldrich, D.P. and Smith, R.E., 2015. Social capital and resilience. World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) Policy.

Aldrich, D.P., 2012. Building resilience: Social capital in post-disaster recovery. University of Chicago Press.

Bolin, B. and Kurtz, L.C., 2018. Race, class, ethnicity, and disaster vulnerability. In Handbook of disaster research (pp. 181-203). Springer, Cham.

Dufty, N., 2012. Using social media to build community disaster resilience. Australian Journal of Emergency Management, The, 27(1), p.40.

Lu, X., Bengtsson, L. and Holme, P., 2012. Predictability of population displacement after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(29), pp.11576-11581.

Rahill, G.J., Ganapati, N.E., Clérismé, J.C. and Mukherji, A., 2014. Shelter recovery in urban Haiti after the earthquake: the dual role of social capital. Disasters, 38(s1), pp.S73-S93.

Smith, D., 2019. The relational attributes of marketplaces in post-earthquake Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Environment and Urbanization, 31(2), pp.497-516.

Tierney, K. and Oliver-Smith, A., 2012. Social Dimensions of Disaster Recovery. International Journal of Mass Emergencies & Disasters, 30(2).

Zanotti, L., 2010. Cacophonies of aid, failed state building and NGOs in Haiti: setting the stage for disaster, envisioning the future. Third World Quarterly, 31(5), pp.755-771.


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