Multiple Jeopardies Of Haitian Vulnerability: How Socio-Economic And Political Factors Exacerbate Environmental Hazards In Haiti

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Environmental hazards reveal geographic, socio-economic, political, and cultural vulnerabilities. While natural hazards are recurring events, their effects are not necessarily natural. The risk of a disaster results from the interaction between human exposure to a natural hazard and the level of vulnerability. Simply, an environmental disaster is normally described as a natural event; however, it should also be characterized as a social phenomenon based on vulnerability and human processes. This thesis aims to analyze the differential vulnerabilities of Haiti in the face of natural hazards. Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, is a prime example of a Caribbean country that is vulnerable to hazards. Without a national response system or governmental agencies to prepare for or deal with the aftermath of such environmental hazards, the Haitian population is inadequately prepared for recurring natural hazards such as hurricanes. In addition, Haiti's socio-economic and political instability, coupled with the country's geographic location, heightens the level of disaster risk. These conditions make the island particularly vulnerable to recurring natural hazards. Historically, Haiti has suffered many deaths and injuries from the effects of environmental hazards, causing higher casualties than its neighboring countries in the Caribbean Basin. This thesis provides three exemplary cases to illustrate the devastating impacts of natural hazards as a result of socio-economic and political factors that exacerbate multiple jeopardies in Haiti. These causal factors produce unfortunate and deadly outcomes for Haiti and the population, and if not addressed, Haiti will continue to suffer. While natural hazards present socio-economic, political, and environmental challenges in a society, they can be managed with appropriate mitigation measures and preparedness strategies. To yield positive results, development initiatives in Haiti must also be pursued in order to provide lasting improvements in human safety, economic security, and environmental management. The aim of this thesis is to examine six objectives: (1) deconstruct and reconstruct the term natural disaster; (2) explain why the devastating impacts of environmental disasters in Haiti are not necessarily natural; (3) focus on the Haitian population and development rather than a hazard itself; (4) bridge the conceptual division between disaster and development; (5) evaluate the multiple jeopardies (i.e. dangers) of Haitian vulnerability that contribute to environmental disasters; and (6) propose various strategies and recommendations to promote development and disaster planning. In sum, this thesis intends to explain that environmental disasters in Haiti are not due to only to natural causes; they can be prevented or lessened with proper strategies and policies to reduce vulnerability and disaster risk.
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2010-10-20
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dissertation or thesis
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