In January 2010, measuring 7.0 on the Richter Scale, the most powerful earthquake to hit Haiti in 200 years caused unprecedented devastation on the western side of Hispaniola, killing almost 300,000 people, injuring as many, and leaving an estimated 1.5 million homeless. The epicentre was located close to the capital, Port-au-Prince, reducing entire urban areas to rubble. The fact that 25 percent of Haiti’s civil service was wiped out in the disaster, combined with the country’s already fragile physical and social infrastructure, added to the usual panoply of problems that beleaguer large-scale relief efforts. Despite the Dominican Republic’s perennial acrimonious relations with its poorer neighbour, President Fernández garnered international plaudits for his immediate response to the earthquake, supplying medical services, volunteers and pledging vast sums of aid, including $40 million for a new university. He also championed the right of the Haitian government to maintain control of the aid efforts, while facilitating the arrival of supplies and relief personnel through the DR. Another positive outcome was that the disaster jolted the Dominican–Haitian Mixed Bilateral Commission out of its torpor as it met for the first time since 2000 to address issues of mutual concern. Though the anticipated mass influx of refugees across the border into the DR did not occur in the initial aftermath of the quake, over the last twelve months, around a million people are thought to have entered the country since a year on, despite sustained relief efforts, Haiti’s homeless remain in tented camps, with little prospect of improved living conditions, and, at the time of writing, escalating outbreaks of cholera adding to the misery. This increase in migration has already put a strain on the countries’ precarious new relationship as thousands of Haitians deemed to be in the DR illegally are being deported back over the border, on a scale unprecedented in recent years.

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Video: 14 things we love about the Dominican Republic

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