Lack of disaster preparedness also was a factor. If people were more aware of the risk, the mortality in and after an earthquake would significantly drop as it has in poor countries like Bangladesh.
News reports also connected the high damage to deforestation in Haiti. But, this wasn't the fault of the people of Haiti.
Ezili DantÃ², award winning playwright, performance poet, author, human rights attorney, and political and social commentator from Haiti described how a century of theft and exploitation including deforestation has made Haiti so impoverished:
"Haiti's deforestation is due as much to the use of wood for charcoal as the soil erosion occurring right now in Haiti (because of the current destruction of Haiti's mountains) is due to digging up for cement, marble, granite, aggregate, gold and copper by the Haitians peasant for constructing their houses! Haiti's peasants could be using charcoal and raw mountain materials for construction to meet their sustainable daily needs for centuries and would not have denuded the mountains or dug them up to the extent visible today, leaving Haiti with the soil erosion it is currently experiencing and the craters that will be left when Haiti's remaining mountain ranges and natural protection have been more thoroughly exploited and mined by the transnational corporations now in Haiti. Mining Haiti's mountains for extraction of raw materials for the foreign construction industry has been steadily going on for decades in Haiti and since before the 1980s. The digging up of Haiti, for the construction industry and, to a smaller scale at present, for its mineral wealth (gold, copper...), post-Bush Regime Change/2004 coup d'etat, has intensified.
The Euro/US companies carting off Haiti's natural resources, by digging its mountains right now, and before that, by razing whole Haitian forests to the ground for lumber to meet Western profit needs, along with the destruction of Haiti's peasant economy (elimination of Haiti's indigenous black pigs and dumping of US rice that destroyed domestic agriculture) so that the peasant could not afford other fuel, are the primary reasons for the environmental degradation in Haiti."
News media in the U.S. mentioned "unstable governments" as a factor behind the significant damage. While true, the Haitian people are not responsible for this as they have been controlled and exploited by foreign countries and private interests for centuries.
A HISTORY OF U.S. INTERVENTION IN HAITI
Ever since General Jean-Jacques Dessalines declared Haiti's independence in 1804 after defeating a French Army sent by Napoleon to re-enslave those who had led the world's first successful slave revolt, the U.S. has taken actions that show suspicion and antagonism toward Haiti.
In 1806, the U.S. Congress banned trade with Haiti joining French and Spanish boycotts because of fear that the revolution in Haiti that led to the country's independence might "inspire enslaved Africans in other parts of the world to rebel."
It wasn't until nearly sixty years after the slave revolution in Haiti that the U.S. recognized Haiti's independence.
In 1915, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sent forces to Haiti to prevent Germany or France from taking control of the nation. The U.S. pressured Haiti into signing a Disadvantageous Treaty, which legitimized a U.S. occupation that lasted until 1934 and placed Haitian finances and government under U.S. control for twenty years.
According to Greg Guma, what happened in 1915 "led to the destruction of Haiti's democratic potential, the creation of a repressive police apparatus, and a climat e of exploitation, repression, and racism that set the stage for much of what followed."
Guma's explanation of what happened features Marine hero Smedley Butler. It's possible that Haiti was one instance where Butler learned firsthand that war was a racket:
"Haiti's constitution was later revised to remove a prohibition against land ownership by foreigners. US investors would henceforth be able to purchase fertile areas and go into business with plantations producing sugar cane, cacao, banana, cotton, tobacco, and sisal. This legal reform made possible the full consolidation of the Haitian oligarchy during the succeeding decades, and set the stage for a Black nationalist revolt, manipulated by the devious and brutal doctor-turned president-for-life, Francois Duvalier."
Forty thousand Haitians rebelled against a U.S.-instigated law requiring forced labor. The rebellion took over much of the northern mountainous region of Haiti. U.S. forces repressed the rebellion in March of 1919 and, for the first time ever, airplanes were used to provide support for U.S. ground forces.
Thirteen U.S. soldiers died and over 3,000 Haitians were killed.