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Preparedness explains some differences between Haiti and Nepal’s response to earthquake

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 05 June 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h3059

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Paul S Auerbach, Redlich family professor of surgery, Division of Emergency Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, USA
  1. auerbach{at}

Paul S Auerbach responded to recent disasters in both countries and reflects on why Nepal saw so many fewer deaths and injuries

On 12 January 2010, a magnitude 7 earthquake struck Haiti 25 km from the capital, Port-au-Prince. Between 160 000 and 200 000 people are estimated to have died and more than 300 000 were injured.

Five years later, on 25 April 2015 a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, its epicentre 77 km from Kathmandu. This was followed on 12 May by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake equidistant from Kathmandu but on the opposite side. So far 8604 people are reported to have died and 16 808 have been injured.1

In both countries, buildings collapsed and enormous numbers of people were displaced and relocated to improvised shelters. The risk of communicable diarrhoeal disease loomed because of crowding and rain. Restricted airport capacity delayed relief workers and supplies.

The many differences between the two countries help explain why Haiti was far more vulnerable than Nepal to a similar sized earthquake. Both countries are poor, but Haiti is significantly poorer than Nepal. Haiti is considered politically a fragile, if not failed, …

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