Three years ago in Haiti, a massive earthquake killed 230,000 people, leaving millions homeless amid devastation, heartache and trauma. Unfortunately, disasters are common—and their impact on families is magnified in poor countries like Haiti, as most already struggle in unbelievable poverty. Like weathering an endless storm, they’re relentlessly pummeled by catastrophe.
You might be asking, why does this cycle keep happening? And what can we do about it?
Leon Etienne’s story helps illustrate. The 61-year-old father of seven lives in northern Haiti. Hurricanes are a yearly threat. Leon and his neighbors still have nightmares about the 2010 quake, and live in constant fear of hurricanes. When a storm comes, the inevitable flooding is much more hazardous than just having water in their house. It brings with it deadly diseases, like cholera, which can kill in a matter of hours.
Right now Leon and others in his community cannot protect themselves. You see, the sewage and trash in his front yard is caused by a domino effect that begins in the hills high above his village. For decades, trees have been stripped from these hillsides to make room for farmland, and to produce charcoal for income for poor families. This has left the hillsides vulnerable to mudslides, allowing a surge of muddy water to flood coastal towns. It’s a mudslide of disease, contaminating homes, sickening children and families.
But remember, when a row of dominos starts toppling, all you have to do is put your finger on one of the pieces to stop the process…