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Report: Death Toll Of Haiti Earthquake Much Lower Than Government Said

According to a report prepared for the U.S. Agency for International Development no more than 85,000 people died in the catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti in January of 2010. That number is in great contrast to the more than 300,000 people the Haitian government said died because of the quake.

The report, which used statistical samplings to arrive at the figure, has not been released officially but the Associated Press obtained a copy on Monday. They report:

The report has inconsistencies, however, and won't be released publicly until they are resolved, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Preeti Shah told the AP.

"The first draft of the report contained internal inconsistencies with its own findings," Shah said in a telephone interview from Washington. "We are reviewing these inconsistencies ... to ensure information we release is accurate."

Shah would not elaborate or say whether the report could change significantly once the inconsistencies are resolved.

The report was written for USAID by anthropologist Timothy Schwartz, who is also the author of Travesty in Haiti: A true account of Christian missions, orphanages, fraud, food aid and drug trafficking.

In a blog post, Schwartz shares a timeline of how the death toll changed wildly from one day to another. He writes:

It seems pretty clear that no one, not the government nor anyone else, had any idea how many people were killed. But the interesting thing is that, while I am not impugning any motivations, almost everyone who had anything to do with any type of official agency or NGO seemed deliberately bent on skewing the numbers as high as they possibly could. And they did so with total disregard for the evidence.


Intellectually, I really don't care how many people got killed in the earthquake. The draft report for USAID was simply a job I was performing with a team of some 20 University educated professionals, including two other PhDs. But personally, for me, in terms of the tragedy, less is better. And at about 60,000 dead, that's still a huge tragedy.

The AP notes that the new count isn't merely an academic exercise. The death toll, they report, was used to "justify an international outpouring of aid for the impoverished Caribbean country, including $5.5 billion pledged during a March 2010 U.N. donor's conference."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.