January 12, 2012

Review: Haiti: After the Earthquake

Photo found here.
Two years ago today a massive earthquake took some 300,000 lives in Haiti, and left the country devastated. These pictures from the Huffington Post show how far Haiti still has to go in terms of attempts to repair the damage. Half a million people are still homeless, cholera is rampant, and aid is still desperately needed.

A few months ago Shelf Awareness sent me the audio book version of Haiti: After the Earthquake for review.

Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health, has spent years working in nations such as Haiti and Rwanda. Already struggling to recover from the deadly 2008 hurricane season, Haiti was completely decimated by the January 12, 2010 earthquake. Dr. Farmer was on the ground within days, working with the U.N., Partners in Health, and the Clinton Foundation to provide aid where most needed.

Farmer discusses the scramble to save people in the first few days post-quake and the struggle to comprehend the extent of the crisis. He tells how aid played out in Haiti over the first year: the creating of “temporary” camps, attempts to stop gender based violence, and the impossibility of preventing the cholera breakout.

Farmer critiques traditional NGO models of providing aid and emphasizes the difference between relief and reconstruction. He hopes that Haiti will rebuild, but tempers his hope with a realistic perspective on the massive challenges Haiti faces and the vast numbers of people still living in camps.

The audio book says it is read by “Meryl Streep and an ensemble cast”, which is misleading since at least 80% of the book is read by Eric Conger. But Farmer’s main text is well-narrated by Conger and is interspersed with gripping short essays. These stories are either read by their writers, people like Dr. Joia Mukherjee and author Edwidge Danticat, or by Meryl Streep. Since the essays were written by people who experienced the disaster of the earthquake firsthand, they bring home Farmer’s points with intensity.

If you're interested in finding out more about aid efforts in Haiti and about Haitian reactions to the terrible quake, Haiti: After the Earthquake is a great starting point. If you want to personally help, you can donate money via organizations like the Red Cross and World Vision. It's easy to forget crises sometimes -- because since the Haitian earthquake there have been earthquakes in Japan, famines in East Africa, and many other disasters -- but the Haitian people can still use all the help they can get!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Sure.

Do you have a favorite charity you donate to? Have you ever visited Haiti?