Friday, January 15, 2010

posted Jan 15, 2010, 6:02 PM by Jeremy Poehnert   [ updated Jan 15, 2010, 6:35 PM ]
Headlines today estimated that the death toll in Haiti could be as high as 50,000 people, with another 250,000 injured.  That's only immediate deaths; it doesn't include all the people who will die in the aftermath. 

I checked online, and the estimated population of Haiti is a little over 10,000,000.  Fifty thousand deaths out of a population of 10 million is 1/2 of one percent of the Haitian population.  That might not sound like much, but to put it into perspective, 1/2 of one percent of the US population would be 1.5 million people.  In terms of injuries, 250,000 people is 2.5% of the Haitian population.  In US terms that would be 7.5 million people.

Imagine if the US faced a disaster that killed 1.5 million people and injured and/or displaced 7.5 million people.  We're the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world, and we would be completely overwhelmed.  Imagine how much harder it will be for a country with limited resources and a less well developed infrastructure.

It makes very appreciative about how lucky the US has been.  While we've faced difficult situations, we've also been spared some of the truly catastrophic events that other countries have faced.

I often think of that in terms of World War II.  Europe was ground zero for the war, and was devastated.  As far as I know, other than Pearl Harbor, the US didn't experience any serious attacks on American soil.  My impression is that both the devastation around the world, and the US insulation from direct damage, played a serious factor in the US ascension to power in the late 20th century.

Of course, I'm not a historian, so my impressions could  be completely wrong.  But it's hard to look at what Europe faced in World War II and what Haiti is facing now and not feel grateful that the US hasn't faced the same kind of devastation.