2010 Haiti earthquake: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

A magnitude-7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti on the afternoon of January 12, 2010, was one more disaster in a country that had suffered from decades of political, economic, and social setbacks and inequalities.

With approximately 3 million people affected, this earthquake was the most devastating natural disaster ever experienced in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Roughly 250,000 lives were lost and 300,000 people were injured. About 1.5 million individuals were forced to live in makeshift internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. As a result, the country faced the greatest humanitarian need in its history.

Timeline of the 2010 Haiti earthquake and recovery

2010: Earthquake

  • January 12, 4:53 pm.: A magnitude-7.0 earthquake hits Haiti, on the island of Hispaniola, near Léogâne, about 16 miles west of the capital, Port-Au-Prince.
  • January 20: While multiple aftershocks are recorded soon after the initial quake, the U.S. Geological Service reports the strongest aftershock is a 5.9 temblor on January 20 that collapses many already damaged buildings.
  • October: A cholera outbreak begins and spreads rapidly.

2010 to 2014: Continuing challenges

  • 2011: UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency, reports 1 million Haitians are still in temporary shelters.
  • 2012: Hurricane Isaac and Hurricane Sandy cause damage and flooding. More than 400,000 people still live under tents and tarps.
  • 2013: By August, more than 8,000 Haitians have died from cholera. Haiti is in the midst of a major food and nutrition crisis.

2015 to 2018: Prioritizing development amid setbacks

  • 2015 through 2016: More than 1 million people are affected by drought because of El Niño conditions.
  • October 2016: Category 4 Hurricane Matthew causes massive destruction and displacement.
  • 2018: While progress has been made, some of the issues prior to the earthquake still persist in Haiti, such as weak political governance, lack of infrastructure, and limited access to basic resources.

FAQs: What you need to know about the 2010 Haiti earthquake

Explore frequently asked questions about the magnitude-7.0 earthquake that struck January 12, 2010, and learn how you can help people in Haiti:

Haiti 2010 earthquake The epicenter of the 2010 earthquake was at Léogâne, about 16 miles west of the capital, Port-Au-Prince.
The epicenter of the 2010 earthquake was at Léogâne, about 16 miles west of the capital, Port-Au-Prince. (Wikimedia Commons)

Fast facts: 2010 Haiti earthquake

  • An estimated 250,000 people died.
  • At least 300,000 people were injured.
  • 5 million people were displaced.
  • Nearly 4,000 schools were damaged or destroyed.
  • At the time of the quake, 70 percent of the population lived below the poverty line.
  • More than $16 billion in total aid was allocated by international agencies and private donors to Haiti for 2010 to 2020.


Why was the 2010 Haiti earthquake so destructive?

The earthquake registered a magnitude-7.0; that’s a high level of energy at the point of impact. Because it occurred at 6.2 miles below the surface, a shallow depth, its powerful energy had a devastating effect at ground level.

The epicenter of the quake was near to Port-au-Prince, the capital city, with more than 2 million people in the metropolitan area. Many of Port-au-Prince’s multi-story concrete buildings collapsed in a deadly heap because they were poorly constructed. There were no building codes enforced.


What challenges does Haiti face today?

Some of the issues Haiti faced prior to the earthquake persist today, including weak political governance, lack of infrastructure, and limited access to basic resources. Haiti ranks among the world’s least developed countries because of political, social, and environmental insecurity.

Recurring disasters, such as Hurricane Matthew in 2016, make it hard for Haitian families to overcome entrenched poverty.


How does poverty affect children and families in Haiti?

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world—the only low-income country in the Americas. About two-thirds of the Haitian population depends on agriculture to make a living. Most grow smallholder crops such as corn, bananas, plantains, cowpeas, and yams. Their crops are vulnerable to environmental shocks and stresses such as drought and floods. Often their yields are limited by lack of irrigation and soil erosion, especially on deforested mountain slopes.

Today, with nearly 60 percent of the population living below the poverty line, many children are hungry. In fact, half of all Haitians are undernourished and 100,000 Haitian children under 5 suffer from acute malnutrition.


How can I help children in Haiti?

  • Pray: Lift up children and families affected by recurring disasters in Haiti.
  • Give to World Vision’s disaster relief fund: Your gift will help provide emergency food aid, agricultural support, clean water, medicine, and other essential care to children and families affected by disasters like the 2010 Haiti earthquake and subsequent hurricanes.
  • Sponsor a child in Haiti: Help change a child’s life story as well as their family and community by providing access to nutritious food, healthcare, clean water, education, and more.


World Vision’s work in Haiti

World Vision had worked to improve the lives of children in Haiti for 30 years before the 2010 earthquake. Within minutes of the quake, World Vision staff sprang into action and began distributing pre-positioned emergency supplies. World Vision’s staff, mostly Haitians who had suffered many losses themselves in the earthquake, stepped up to serve their own people. Their consistent efforts over the past years have saved lives, reduced suffering, and provided a future for thousands of affected Haitians.

In response to the quake, World Vision called upon the largest unified effort of its national and global support offices. The Haiti earthquake emergency response team assisted almost 2 million people during the first 90 days following the disaster. These efforts included providing basic services such as food assistance; shelter; and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).

2010 to 2015

As a result of World Vision’s work, at the end of five years:

  • 2 million people received food aid.
  • More than 200,000 people received emergency shelter.
  • 250,000 students participated in school feeding programs in more than 800 schools.
  • 300,000 people benefited from cholera treatment and prevention programs.
  • 90,000 displaced people in camps received potable water for close to 24 months.
  • 19,000 farmers were trained in better agriculture techniques to increase crop yields.
  • 10 schools were constructed.
  • 30 Child-Friendly Spaces served nearly 8,000 children.

2016 to present

World Vision continues to work in Haiti to improve the lives of children and families so that they can move from subsistence to a sustainable and full life.

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