Unlucky Haiti (1981-2009)

Unlucky Haiti (1981-2010)

I was very much moved by Maggie Steber’s photo essay in The New York Times, titled ‘No End of Trouble. Ever.

The essay talks about Haiti’s violent history, and of the countries incredible tendency towards misfortune:

“How can nature or God or the fates or the universe do this to a country that has borne far too much sadness? An earthquake has now devastated the capital; claiming lives, hopes and the pitifully small dreams that people have held on to, despite political violence, unimaginable poverty, disease, corruption, dictators and nature’s full force of four hurricanes in a row.”

I built this very quick visualization to explore this topic a little further. Specifically, I wanted to compare Haiti to its Caribbean neighbours to see if the country is indeed as unlucky as it seems.

This visualization compares Haiti to 12 other Caribbean nations. It looks at articles published in the New York Times mentioning those countries between 1981 and 2010, and measures the occurence of specific words in those articles.

The pie charts in each row show the percentage of total articles on each country which contain the words in question. For example, we can see that about 25% of articles published about Haiti mention the word ‘violence’ – twice the frequency of any other country on the list.

Haiti has the highest frequency of the words ‘coup’, ‘violence’, ‘disease’, and ‘strife’. It is second or third in mentions of ‘death’, ‘unrest’ and ‘famine’.

Likely this week’s events will lead to many more mentions of these words. As you’re likely aware, many NGOs small and large are organizing to help Haitians – both through emergency assistance and through long-term rebuilding. If you want to donate, I’d highly recommend considering Architecture for Humanity (for long-term projects) or Partners in Health (for emergency assistance). Both organizations are accepting donations through their websites.

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