Why we shouldn’t compare Hurricane Katrina and the Earthquake in Haiti

This post from Contexts Crawler discusses why it is important to look at Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian Earthquake as two separate disasters. As the author points out, it might be tempting to compare the two events, and many people might try to do so since these catastrophes are both fresh in our minds. Both events are considered to be among the largest natural disasters ever, with each leading to massive devastation and loss of life. As a result, the Gulf Coast of the United States has struggled to recover in recent years, just as Haiti will long into the future.

There are some similarities between the two occurrences. Each event required coordinated rescue efforts to help find survivors who were still alive in the wreckage days later. Thousands of people died. Also, millions of people have donated to recovery and rebuilding efforts in these areas of the world. However, this is where the similarities between the catastrophes end.

As the author strongly states, Katrina impacted a relatively small region in a very large country, where as a major portion of Haiti has suffered from the recent earthquake. In 2005, people from around the United States were aware of the devastation caused by the hurricane and did all that they could to help donate and rebuild New Orleans. However, since the majority of the country was unaffected by this event, it was easy for many of us to forget about the situation after the national media had moved on to other issues. In addition, lines of communication remained open throughout the country and our political leaders were not directly affected by the event itself. Therefore, our country could still function as a whole as if nothing had happened. Since our country did not face the dire economic conditions in 2005 before Katrina that have been seen in Haiti today, we were able to help ourselves and did not rely on foreign aid to survive.

Haiti is a completely different situation. The country’s capital witnessed the devastation from this tragic event, along with over a third of the nation’s citizens. Individuals cannot support each other because they are all in the same position. Haitian government buildings have been left in ruins and the country’s politicians are among the hardest hit from this disaster. The entire political process in Haiti has been disrupted and it has to be almost impossible for the country to coordinate its own relief efforts. Haiti was already one of the poorest nations in the world before the earthquake, and now it relies even more on foreign aid to sustain itself.

It will be interesting to see how long people from around the world will think about Haiti in the coming months and years. Once the media has returned to the United States, will we still be as supportive for these people who are half way around the world from us? It remains to be seen. However, this event should help to remind Americans that there is still work to be done in New Orleans. Our fellow citizens still need our help, just as they did in 2005. Hopefully we will continue to help both regions, just as we hope they would do the same for us in our time of need.

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2 Responses

  1. Great overview of Katrina vs. Haiti disasters. Although it they were both horrific events, the human aid responses from around the world really touched me and demonstrates the compassionate aspect of human nature. It would be interesting if you could comment on how big charities (Red Cross, Salvation Army etc) are utilizing all the donations and how much overall has been donated to both events.

  2. This site says that donations to Haiti had already exceeded $500 million in the two weeks following the disaster. That’s a staggering number but it is in fact smaller than what Katrina received in the same time frame. Maybe people felt more compelled to donate to Katrina relief because it affected Americans.

    http://philanthropy.com/article/Donations-to-Aid-Haiti-Exce/63756/

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