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JANUARY'S MASSIVE EARTHQUAKE 'A CATASTROPHIC SET BACK' FOR
THE PEOPLE OF A FAILED STATE ALREADY HIT BY POLITICAL INSTABILITY,
NEGLECT AND POVERTY. STEVE HOLDEN REPORTS
The 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck
Port-au-Prince and other densely populated
areas of Haiti on 12 January has devastated
the already impoverished Caribbean failed
state, not least because it destroyed the
United Nations headquarters, which would
have coordinated the relief effort. With
power and phone ser vices cut and roads
blocked with rubble, aid agencies struggled
to reach many of those most in need.
Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman of the UN
Office for the Coordination of Humanitar-
ian Affairs, admitted, 'We have never been
confronted with such a disaster in the UN
memory. It is like no other.'
Haiti already faced a serious humanitar-
ian crisis before the earthquake hit. Political
stability has been precariously maintained
by a peacekeeping mission -- the UN Sta-
bilisation Mission in Haiti or Mission des
Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti
-- mandated by the UN Security Council,
which in 2004 deemed political instability
in Haiti to be a threat to international peace
and security in the region.
Haiti already faced a severe food crisis
in 2008 without a natural disaster after the
Haitian parliament refused to ratify presi-
dent René Garcia Préval's choice of a prime
minister. January's massive earthquake has
made bad matters much worse.
About half of the nation's 15,000 pri-
mary schools and 1,500 secondary schools
were destroyed or damaged. Minister for
Education Joel Jean-Pierre told Reuters,
'At the time of the disaster, just before
5 pm, there were many schools still work-
ing because this was the second session of
the day, and the universities were all still
working, so many, many people died inside.'
Close to half of Haiti's 10 million people are
under 18 years of age.
The UN's Flash Appealfor Haiti isfocus-
ing on reactivating the educational sector.
According to Irina Bokova, director-general
of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cul-
tural Organisation, reviving the education
system is vital for the country's long-term
'The destruction of. . . numerous second-
ary and primary schools . . , and the human
loss of teachers and students, is a cata-
strophic set-back for a country already hit by
other disasters,' Bokova said in a statement.
'Education is at the core of Haiti's recov-
ery and is the key to Haiti's development.'
Whether recovery leads to the creation of a
functional Haitian state remains to be seen.
A 13-year-old student appeared in the
Brisbane Children's Court on 16 February,
charged with the murder the previous
morning of fellow student Elliot Fletcher
at St Patrick's College in Brisbane's north.
The 12-year-old student was allegedly
stabbed in the chest du ring an altercation at
about 8.15 am at the private Catholic boys'
school. He died shortly after arriving at the
Royal Children's Hospital in Brisbane, hav-
ing suffered a puncture wound to the chest.
The 13-year-old student was arrested by
police after he was found near the school
with a minor stab wound to the neck,
believed to have been self-inflicted. A knife
was also found nearby.
Dr Michael Carroll, the principal of
St Patrick's College, described the student's
death as a 'tragic loss of young life.'
'My im mediate concern is the welfare of
the families affected, and all students and
staff at the college,' Dr Carroll said. 'I have
informed students and staff of this tragedy,
and counselling services are available to all
students and staff.'
Friends set up a Facebook page to express
their condolences and post memories of the
12-year old. A few hours later, the site, RIP
Elliot Fletcher, was desecrated by cyber
vandals who posted abusive messages and
obscene images. Queensland Police have
launched an investigation.
of a young
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