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Haiti After the Earthquakeby Paul Farmer
Synopses & Reviews
On January 12, 2010 a major earthquake struck near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Hundreds of thousands of people died, and the greater part of the capital was demolished. Dr. Paul Farmer, U.N. deputy special envoy to Haiti, had worked in the country for nearly thirty years, treating infectious diseases like tuberculosis and AIDS. No one understood better than he how painful it was that Haiti, the site of so much suffering, would have to endure another disaster. It was, in his words, a “cruel cosmic joke.” Farmer and former President Bill Clinton, the U.N. special envoy to Haiti, had just begun to work on an extensive development plan to improve living conditions in Haiti. Now their project was transformed into a massive international rescue and relief effort.
In his own words, Farmer documents this effort, including the harrowing obstacles and the small triumphs. Support came in the form of dozens of humanitarian groups and a flood of money. Despite this outpouring of aid, the challenges were astronomical. U.N. plans were crippled by Haiti’s fragile infrastructure and the death of U.N. staff members who had been based in Port-au-Prince. As the humanitarian operations grew, questions about their effectiveness mounted. By some estimates, Haiti had more NGOs per capita than any other place on earth. And yet, Haitians were still suffering from a lack of basic services, from a lack of food, water, and shelter.
Farmer shows how the earthquake heightened the problems in Haiti and argues that these long-term challenges cannot be ignored. In chronicling the relief effort, Farmer draws attention to the social issues that made Haiti so vulnerable to this natural disaster. Now that their already weak public-health system has been further damaged, Haiti’s poor are even more vulnerable to fresh onslaughts of diseases like cholera and typhoid.
Yet Farmer’s account is not a gloomy catalog of impenetrable problems. As devastating as Haiti’s circumstances are, its population manages to keep going. Farmer shows how, even in the barest camps, Haitians organize themselves, creating small businesses such as beauty parlors. His narrative is interwoven with stories from Haitians themselves, from doctors and others working on the ground.
Ultimately this is a story of human endurance and humility in difficult circumstances. Once again, Paul Farmer reveals what can be accomplished in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds.
"Former Irish Times Moscow correspondent O’Clery chronicles the last of day of the Soviet Union and pulls together the threads which lead to its dissolution....A compelling story about how sometimes the little everyday things can shape the broad sweep of history more powerfully than ideologies or competitive economic systems." Kirkus Reviews
"Profoundly moving....An urgent dispatch from the front by one of our finest warriors for social justice. With eloquence and wisdom, Paul Farmer shows how we cannot fully comprehend one of the great natural disasters of history without understanding the man-made suffering that Americans and others have inflicted on Haiti." Adam Hochschild
"A gripping recollection of the quake’s ruin, chaos, and despair, and the story of remarkable persistence, hope, and love in the aftermath. Once you’ve seen Haiti through Paul Farmer’s eyes, you’ll never see Haitians, or any of the world’s poorest people, quite the same way again." President Bill Clinton
The celebrated physician and anthropologist offers a vivid on-the-ground account of the relief effort in the aftermath of Haiti's earthquake — and issues a powerful call to action.
On January 12, 2010 a massive earthquake laid waste to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, killing hundreds of thousands of people. Within three days, Dr. Paul Farmer arrived in the Haitian capital, along with a team of volunteers, to lend his services to the injured.
In this vivid narrative, Farmer describes the incredible suffering — and resilience — that he encountered in Haiti. Having worked in the country for nearly thirty years, he skillfully explores the social issues that made Haiti so vulnerable to the earthquake — the very issues that make it an "unnatural disaster." Complementing his account are stories from other doctors, volunteers, and earthquake survivors.
Haiti After the Earthquake will both inform and inspire readers to stand with the Haitian people against the profound economic and social injustices that formed the fault line for this disaster.
About the Author
Paul Farmer is the UN Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti and Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is also Chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, and co-founder of Partners In Health. Among his numerous awards and honors is the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's "genius award."
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