And then came Grace, a brutal coup de grace, it seemed. Struggling still to dig out victims from Saturday's 7.2 magnitude earthquake, whose death toll has risen inexorably to 2,000, Haiti's people were lashed on Tuesday by the region's seventh named tropical storm of the season, Grace. Its torrential rains flooding makeshift refugee camps and putting further pressure on already overstretched emergency services.
Hospitals are currently overwhelmed with 9,900 people seriously injured by the earthquake. The quake triggered widespread landslides, with rocks and other debris blocking many roads, making it hard to reach the injured and the thousands made homeless. Over 84,000 homes have been completely destroyed or damaged. Almost all those who died this week were in the three provinces of Grand’Anse, Nippes and Sud on Haiti’s southern peninsula served by only a few dozen doctors in an area with roughly 1.5 million people about 80 miles west of Port-au-Prince.
The island, population of 11 million, is considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with a quarter of its people estimated to be living in chronic poverty. And has suffered from more than its fair share of natural and man-made disasters.
It has never really recovered from a devastating quake in 2010 that claimed the lives of about 300,000 people and caused, the World Bank estimated, about $8 billion in damage equivalent to 120 per cent of Haiti's GDP.
A subsequent cholera outbreak in 2016, linked to UN peacekeepers allegedly contaminating a water source, killed at least 10,000 Haitians and sickened another 800,000. The island has remained mired in economic underdevelopment and insecurity and in 2016 was also pounded by Hurricane Matthew, the worst storm to hit it in half a century.
Saturday’s quake came about five weeks after Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated, leaving a leadership vacuum in a country already grappling with severe poverty and rampant gang violence.
Relief efforts have been managed from the Port-au-Prince airport and largely coordinated by international aid groups and the US Coast Guard. There was little sign, reports say, of the Haitian authorities, underscoring the power vacuum left in a country without a president or a functioning government.