In the aftermath of disaster, Haitians ask what makes a city
Port-au-Prince was decimated when a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010. But as the years progressed, from the balconies of Pétionville you could see something new taking shape in the distance, several miles north. Settlements began to appear on a barren landscape, shacks and tents spreading over dusty plains. Desperate for space, tens of thousands of Haitians flocked to the area.
Before the earthquake, the only people who visited these remote mountains did so to pray. It offered a quiet reprieve from the city, a place to be alone in nature. They referred to it as Canaan, the biblical promised land where Moses led the Israelites out of slavery, the land of milk and honey. “This Canaan has the same history,” one Nazarene pastor, who was among the first to move there, told me. “This is our honey.”
Honey or not, this emerging city is the earthquake’s most visible legacy. In Canaan, as in any city, people—the rich and the poor, the powerful and weak, the complacent and the desperate—were destined to get in one another’s way.
Typically, the U.S. Department of State issues travel warnings for people heading overseas. Erring on the side of extreme caution, they are often alarmist, comically inflating the risks posed to Americans abroad.
There’s only one country the State Department won’t warn you about. It’s a country where there are almost as many guns as people, where sectarian political opposition lead to complete shutdowns of the nation’s federal government. Here’s how a State Department travel advisory might look for the land of the free.
“Visitors belonging to a minority race should use particular caution when traveling to areas of the United States where police officers may be present. Travelers to the United States have been victims of violent crime including homicide, rape and kidnapping. Those visiting major cities such as New York should therefore avoid crowds.”
Pyrethrum contains a potent chemical that is made into an environmentally friendly insecticide. Photos by Vito Fusco
GILGIL, KENYA–The deadliest flower in the insect world is soft to the touch. Each morning in the hills above Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, the white petals of the pyrethrum plant become laden with dew. To the people who pick them, the flower is utterly harmless. But bugs beware: Its yellow center contains a natural toxin that can kill them in seconds.
Eight-year-old Trizah Makungu sits on the bed she shares with her parents, protected by a mosquito net. These nets, which cost about $5 in the local market, have helped save millions of lives. / Lena Mucha
While most of the world is focusing on new vaccines for the coronavirus, thousands of Kenyan children are finally receiving a longed-for malaria vaccine, 37 years after development on it started.
Haiti’s earthquake shattered several cities, but it also birthed another. A place with space for the dead is a place with space for the living. And in post-earthquake Haiti, space was in short supply. Called Canaan, after the biblical holy land, a place defined by death has come alive.
In 2007, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said it was committed to eradicating malaria across the globe.
It was late to the game. That year, Chinese scientists working with a Chinese philanthropist had already begun eradicating malaria from the small African nation of Comoros. Now they’re setting their sights on a more ambitious location: Kenya, the East African nation of nearly 50 million people.
In Africa’s Great Rift Valley, tectonic shifts are underway. Kenya is harvesting them to power its future.
Drive along the dusty dirt road that winds through Kenya’s Hell’s Gate National park, past the zebra, gazelles and giraffes, and you’ll see a plume of steam shooting skyward in the distance. Vehicles must sometimes swerve to avoid running over warthogs as they enter a vast valley dotted with dozens of steam vents – a factory of clouds.
Blasts of steam billow loudly, releasing heat from deep within the Earth. But even more powerful is the steam you don’t see: that which twists through miles of tubes to push past turbines, generating a type of clean energy that won’t run out for millions of years.
That’s how to prevent the next pandemic–if these scientists are right.
Move over, Covid-19. Another, far more lethal disease is in danger of erupting once again. Yellow fever infects some 200,000 people and kills 30,000 of them each year–more than terrorist attacks and plane crashes combined. Stopping the next outbreak from jumping from monkeys to humans may require a novel approach: vaccinating our hairy, banana-loving brethren.
The discovery of a novel mosquito on Guantanamo Bay reveals how globalization is threatening to unleash the next pandemic. Part of our BBC Future series,Stopping The Next One, with Harriet Constable andThe Pulitzer Center.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for Artists For Peace And Justice
When I was working as a reporter based in Haiti, I came upon a group of older Christian missionaries in the mountains above Port-au-Prince, struggling with heavy shovels to stir a pile of cement and sand. They were there to build a school alongside a Methodist church. Muscular Haitian masons stood by watching, perplexed and a bit amused at the sight of the white men and women who had flown in from the United States to do a mundane construction job.
Such people were a familiar sight: They were voluntourists. Each year, an incredible 1.6 million of them descend upon the Haitis of the world.