Malya Villard-Appolon: A Hero in Haiti

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Malya Villard-Appolon

Since Haiti will be joining the African Union in 2013, we want to welcome them by highlighting content that tells about the good news on the Island of Hispaniola. We would like to highlight 2012 CNN Hero, Malya Villard-Appolon for the work she doing to help victims of sexual violence after the devastating earthquake in 2010 that left up to 316,000 people dead and 1.6 million homeless.

Let us support her by going to http://www.cnn.com/heroes and voting to support her cause. Haiti is often synonymous with bad news but we choose to show that the best solutions for Haiti will always come from within.

HAITI: THE COUNTRY

Background

The native Taino Amerindians – who inhabited the island of Hispaniola when it was discovered by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1492 – were virtually annihilated by Spanish settlers within 25 years. In the early 17th century, the French established a presence on Hispaniola. In 1697, Spain ceded to the French the western third of the island, which later became Haiti. The French colony, based on forestry and sugar-related industries, became one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean but only through the heavy importation of African slaves and considerable environmental degradation. In the late 18th century, Haiti’s nearly half million slaves revolted under Toussaint L’OUVERTURE. After a prolonged struggle, Haiti became the first black republic to declare independence in 1804. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has been plagued by political violence for most of its history. After an armed rebellion led to the forced resignation and exile of President Jean-Bertrand ARISTIDE in February 2004, an interim government took office to organize new elections under the auspices of the United Nations. Continued violence and technical delays prompted repeated postponements, but Haiti finally did inaugurate a democratically elected president and parliament in May of 2006. A massive magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010 with an epicenter about 25 km (15 mi) west of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Over 300,000 people were killed and some 1 milllion left homeless. The earthquake was assessed as the worst in this region over the last 200 years.

The Earthquake

On 12 January 2010, at 21:53 UTC, (4:53 pm local time) Haiti was struck by a magnitude-7.0 earthquake, the country’s most severe earthquake in over 200 years.The epicenter of the quake was just outside the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. On 10 February the Haitian government gave a death toll of 230,000. There was widespread damage resulting from the quake, and the capital city was devastated in more ways than one.

The earthquake left millions of  Haitians homeless. As a result many survivors continue to live in tents and are vulnerable to acts of sexual violence and other crimes. At the end of the day it will be home grown solutions like the ones led by Malya Villard-Appolon that are the solutions to Haiti’s problems.

On 31 May 2011, BBC News reported that a new report challenges Haiti’s official earthquake death toll. “Significantly fewer people died or were left homeless by last year’s earthquake in Haiti than claimed by the country’s leaders, a draft report commissioned by the US government has said. The unpublished report puts the death toll between 46,000 and 85,000. (Haiti’s government says about 316,000 died.) It also suggests many of those still living in tent cities did not lose their homes in the disaster. The draft report, which has yet to be released publicly, is based on a survey commissioned by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and draws its numbers from door-to-door surveys carried out over 29 days in January 2011.”

Some references courtesy of CIA FactBook, Wikipedia & CNN