Classroom Activities
The Quake: Relief Efforts, The Staggering Obstacles

On Jan. 12, 2010, Haiti was leveled by one of the most devastating earthquakes in recorded history. Those responsible for handling the catastrophe, including the Haitian state and the United Nations, were crippled by disaster and struggled to respond. In this video chapter, correspondent Martin Smith travels to Haiti to bear witness to this humanitarian crisis and the ill-coordinated relief efforts on the ground. The video contains graphic images. Please preview before classroom viewing.

Getting Started

For classrooms studying foreign affairs, global studies and current events, FRONTLINE provides a set of related themes and questions to help students analyze and understand the key topics in the film. Watch the video chapter and start a discussion that explores students’ views about the relief efforts on the ground in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake. Go further into this topic with The Quake Featured Lesson Plan to consider how nations are dependent on each other in times of crisis.


Video Themes

  • In the aftermath of the earthquake, the Haitian government refused to address the nation during the first week. Many Haitians were angry and doubted the government’s ability to lead the country’s recovery.

  • The United Nations stepped in to fill the gap and provide aid, but it lacked the capacity to organize relief efforts as its headquarters had been decimated, its food supplies ruined, and 101 U.N. workers had been killed in the quake.

  • Outside relief was slow to reach Haiti, and when it did, distribution and aid efforts were uncoordinated: Roads were congested; flights were not prioritized.

  • The international community rallied to support the people of Haiti, but it is unclear who will ultimately be responsible for rebuilding the country.

  • In the meantime, Haitian citizens lacked basic supplies, food and water were scarce, and medical care was unavailable, leaving many Haitians suffering from their injuries.

Discussion Questions

  • How do you feel about the suffering many Haitians experienced after the earthquake? Can you remember any recent humanitarian crises like this that affected the United States? Are there any similarities, any differences?

  • Describe some of the problems and consequences of the ill-coordinated relief efforts in Haiti. What could aid agencies have done differently? What would you have done differently?

  • Many Haitian people lost faith in their government’s ability to manage the crisis and rebuild the country. Why did this happen? Should other countries take charge of Haiti? What do you think the role of humanitarian organizations should be in rebuilding and relief efforts? Do you feel that the Haitian government has a role in the process?

  • Do you agree with Edmond Mulet, the head of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), who says that trying to coordinate relief efforts in the early aftermath of the quake would not have been possible, effective or desirable? Why or why not? Provide specific reasons, facts and examples from the video chapter to support your opinion.

  • What were some of the health-related problems caused by the quake? How did a lack of aid and resources affect the availability and quality of health care for quake victims? What are some of the long-term health issues that could be faced by Haitians as they struggle to rebuild their country?

Go Further

Featured Lesson Plan: “How Should We Respond to the Crisis in Haiti?”

Web-exclusive Resources: Solving the Tap-Tap Puzzle (A FRONTLINE/NPR Planet Money Special Report)

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