State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

A Sustainable Future for Haiti

The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck southern Haiti on January 12 caused massive destruction to human life and infrastructure—as many as 3 million people have been affected. The Earth Institute’s Haiti Policy Advisor, Tatiana Wah, who was in the country at the time of the earthquake, works with the Haitian government to develop, analyze, implement and assess policies, projects, programs and other initiatives in support of its national development strategy. She has since returned, unharmed, to the United States.

Scientists from the Earth Institute and other parts of Columbia, as well as students from the School of International and Public Affairs, were also in the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince, during the earthquake with a UN-sponsored project assessing how to reduce the nation’s obvious vulnerability to natural disasters. All were unharmed. Alexander Fischer, a political scientist and groundwater expert with the Center for International Earth Science Information Network, survived the collapse of much of the UN’s compound, and helped treat other survivors.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and the extreme toll came as much from poverty as physics. “The hard lesson is that construction, urbanization, land reform—all the things we do in terms of development—need to take resiliency into account,” seismologist Art Lerner-Lam of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory told Newsweek.  (See our blog, State of the Planet, for more on the Haiti earthquake.)

Earth Institute Director Jeff Sachs has written extensively on Haiti and the recent earthquake and how the country can rebuild. In this recent blog post he proposes a 10-year plan for rebuilding the country, which includes re-establishing at least a small-scale manufacturing sector, boosting peasant agriculture and rural communities, and reconstructing roads, buildings, and water and sanitation systems.

While the Earth Institute has been developing a presence in Haiti, we are not equipped to offer the type of relief assistance that Haiti needs right now, and so are offering below  a list of relief organizations who are currently aiding Haiti and who have a history of working with the country.  In the coming months we will provide more information about the Earth Institute’s re-focused programming in Haiti as we evaluate how our researchers and policy experts can best help the country build back stronger and more sustainably.

If you have an interest in supporting the Earth Institute’s efforts toward long-term development and reconstruction in Haiti, please contact Gregory Fienhold at or (212) 854-3035.

2025 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
(800) REDCROSS (733-2767)

Gift Center
PO Box 1871
Merrifield VA 22116-9753
(800) 521-CARE

333 7th Avenue, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10001-5004
(888) 392-0392

122 E. 42nd Street
New York, NY 10168
(877) REFUGEE (733-8433)

226 Causeway St., 5th Floor
Boston, MA 02114-2206
(800) 77-OXFAM (776-9326)

P.O. Box 845578
Boston, MA 02284-5578
(617) 432-5256

125 Maiden Lane
New York, NY 10038
(800) FOR-KIDS (367-5437)