Haiti After the Earthquake

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“Paul Farmer, doctor and aid worker, offers an inspiring insider’s view of the relief effort.”—Financial Times

“The book’s greatest strength lies in its depiction of the post-quake chaos… In the book’s more analytical sections the author’s diagnosis of the difficulties of reconstruction is sharp.” —Economist

“A gripping, profoundly moving book, an urgent dispatch from the front by one of our finest warriors for social justice.” —Adam Hochschild

“His honest assessment of what the people trying to help Haiti did well—and where they failed—is important for anyone who cares about the country or international aid in general.” —Miami Herald

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

The earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010 left the poorest nation in the hemisphere even more devastated. According to government estimates, over 315,000 people had been killed and another 300,000 injured by the 7.0 quake. In some cases, survivors envied the dead: Between one million and 1.8 million Haitians were made homeless by the catastrophe and today, over a year later, over 750,000 of them remain in crowded, often dangerous detention cases. No one in the public health field knows more about this crisis than Dr. Paul Farmer, the co-founder of Partners in Health made famous by Tracy Kidder's arresting portrait in the bestselling Mountains Beyond Mountains. In this all-too-timely book, Farmer himself offers a first-person on-the-ground account of the disaster, its aftermath, and recovery projects, past, present, and future.

James Maskalyk
…the importance of this volume cannot be overstated. What emerges clearly is that Haiti's disaster is not merely geologic. The shaking earth only added to the woes of a long-stricken country abused by foreign-backed dictators, economic embargoes and historic French demands to be paid for its slaves freed at independence 200 years ago. Haiti underscores the desperate need for a lasting solution for a people who live hand-to-mouth on an island that once grew enough sugar for nearly the entire world.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher

“The importance of this volume cannot be overstated..”
Washington Post

“Highly recommended for anyone interested in knowing more about this proud nation trying to recover from natural disasters and years of dysfunction.”
Library Journal [starred review]

“Eric Conger effectively captures Farmer’s range of emotions. . . . Meryl Streep provides a gentle maternal touch to several of the accompanying narratives and shines as Farmer’s wife. . . . Edwidge Danticat provides a memorable performance.”
Publishers Weekly [starred review]

“Farmer’s clarion and moving chronicle is followed by powerful essays by other [voices].”
The Globe and Mail
“The uniqueness of Farmer’s . . . contribution to this new stage of Haiti’s history is the piercing historic and social/political dimensions he offers.”
The Globe and Mail
Washington Post

“Farmer’s clarion and moving chronicle is followed by powerful essays by other [voices].”
Library Journal
On January 12, 2010, the whole world witnessed the catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti and the devastation that followed. Having worked in Haiti for almost 30 years, Farmer (UN Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti; global health & social medicine, Harvard) draws on his vast experience to explain what he calls the "acute on chronic problem" that exists in the aftermath of the quake. He recounts the chronic problems caused by Haiti's history of colonial rule, damaging foreign and domestic economic policies, and the resulting abundance of well-meaning but dysfunctional humanitarian aid. Farmer does not deny the horror of the earthquake, but he pushes for closer examination of the problems in Haiti that made this natural disaster so destructive and the efforts to help its citizens extremely difficult. He argues for a more progressive rebuilding plan in Haiti to "build back better." Also included are essays from earthquake survivors, doctors, and other volunteers, which lend a more personal tone to the book. VERDICT Farmer demonstrates his deep love for Haiti while at the same time pushing for the drastic foreign and domestic reforms needed to rebuild this troubled nation. Highly recommended for anyone interested in learning more about the history of, and recovery efforts in, Haiti.—Veronica Arellano, California, MD
Kirkus Reviews

From the UN Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and members of his team, a searing firsthand account of the earthquake and its aftermath.

Farmer (Partner to the Poor: A Paul Farmer Reader, 2010, etc.) presents consequences of the outrage that U.S. law—e.g., the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961—makes it impossible to do what needs to be done in a country like Haiti. Relief and reconstruction funds cannot go to government agencies or to rebuild government infrastructure; instead, they must be funneled into NGOs. Haiti's government, writes the author, is operating out of a small police station on a shoestring budget. More than 40 percent of government employees were killed, and 28 out of 29 ministries were leveled. Yet, under the ruling law, because of Haiti's history of human-rights violations, the United States cannot contribute to rebuilding government infrastructure or paying public employees, including doctors, nurses and medical technicians. The NGOs and volunteers who receive the funds can't discuss policy priorities, make laws or coordinate the scale of activity required, and they siphon funds into overhead and operating costs. Farmer has been involved in Haiti for 25 years, during which time he has warned policy makers about the country's precarious position. Unfortunately, the results have been very close to what he was predicted for years—at least 2 million people are still displaced, one-third of the population is directly affected and cholera has become a major problem. Other contributors to this book include Edwidge Danticat, Evan Lyon and Dubique Kobel.

An eye-opener of a report and a wake-up call that change is needed.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781610390989
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 7/10/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 342,348
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Farmer

Paul Farmer is Kolokotrones University Professor at Harvard University and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and cofounder of Partners In Health. He also serves as UN Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti under Special Envoy Bill Clinton. Among his numerous awards and honors is the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s “genius award.”

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Table of Contents

Nèg Mawon Joia S. Mukherjee ix

Writing About Suffering 1

1 The Catastrophe 6

2 Praxis and Policy: The Years before the Quake 22

3 January 12 and the Aftermath 54

4 A History of the Present Illness 121

5 Into the Camps 140

6 From Relief to Reconstruction (Building Back Better?) 149

7 Reconstruction in the Time of Cholera 188

8 Looking Forward While Looking Back: Lessons from Rwanda 236

Epilogue: January 12, 2011 236

Afterword: March 31, 2012 246

Other Voices

Art, by Catherine Bertrand Farmer 260


Lòt Bò Dlo: The Other Side of the Water Edwidge Danticat 261

Sim Pa Rele (If I Don't Shout), by Michèle Montas-Dominique 271

Goudou Goudou Nancy Dorsinville 285

Mothers and Daughters of Haiti Didi Bertrand Farmer 295


Humanitarian Aid, Impartiality, and Dirty Boots Louise Ivers 308

Lopital Jeneral Struggles to Survive Evan Lyon 319

Doctors in Tents Dubique Kobel 328

Those Who Survived Naomi Rosenberg 332


First We Need Taxis Timothy T. Schwartz 342

The Official Jennie Weiss Block, O. P. 356

Building Back Better Jehane Sedky 363

Notes 373

Acronyms and Initiahsms 409

Contributors 411

Acknowledgments 415

Index 419

Photo insert between pages 216-217

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    This is the book about Haiti that I have been searching for. It not only describes the powerful tragedy of the quake,but the difficult history of this nation and the strength of its people.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2011

    I would not recommend it.

    If you enjoy name-dropping and fawning over Bill Clinton, this is the book for you. For the rest of us however, I would not recommend this book. Although Farmer appears to have some interesting experiences, they are over-shadowed by his tendency to reference every organization and person he has worked with. If you are looking for a book about the Haitian earthquake and reconstruction, I would continue your search.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2014

    Haiti After the Earthquake is a novel in which a person has to g

    Haiti After the Earthquake is a novel in which a person has to get past a vast political message in order to get to the real meat of the story.
     This medical memoir by Paul Farmer does have its merits. Farmer was the UN Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti. He is also apparently very
    close to the Clintons because Bill wrote a review for the back cover of the book, and Farmer mentions Hillary Clinton many times in the book.
    The novel’s message of struggle is very clear. It had many very emotional examples of heroism and kindness. He also spent chapters
    regarding the policy involved in the mess Haiti had been before the earthquake even hit.
    Everyone knows that the earthquake in Haiti was devastating, but Farmer’s novel delves into the idea that the failing infrastructure of the
    Haitian health care system made matters worse. He explains that “healthcare does not exist in a separate universe from politics” (page 23)
    many times. However, he does spend some time focusing on the stories of the earthquake victims, such a man who sat all night with a
    complete stranger all night, comforting through her bouts of tetanus, or medical students who were homeless but continued to work while
    sleeping in tents. However, most of the time the tone is very clinical, with phrases such as, “As President Clinton predicted on the day of the
    quake, the shelter dilemma remained the ranking problem in Haiti” (Page 180). All major problems in Haiti were addressed, as well as all the
    proposed solutions. Farmer is very knowledgeable about this subject and clearly knows the situations he writes about. The novel could have
    benefited from more emotional moments. It would have helped the reader connect, and made a more personal novel. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted August 29, 2012

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    Posted March 1, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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