The beleaguered country was dealt a catastrophic blow in January 2010 when a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck 10 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, the country"s capital. It was region"s worst earthquake in 200 years. The quake leveled many sections of the city, destroying government buildings, foreign aid offices, and countless slums. Assessing the scope of the devastation, Prime Minister Préval said, "Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed." He called the death toll "unimaginable." Fatalities were reported to be around 230,000 by early February.
Since then the numbers have been revised. According to a draft report commissioned for the United States Agency for International Development, the number of fatalities were between 46,000 and 85,000 people. The United Nations mission in Haiti was destroyed, 16 members of the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti were killed, and hundreds of UN employees were missing. International aid poured in, and the scope of the damage caused by the quake highlighted the urgent need to improve Haiti"s crumbling infrastructure and lift it out of endemic poverty—the country is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.
Already a victim of regular hurricanes, this earthquake-devastated country quickly faced another challenge: cholera. In November, the Haitian government said that the death toll had reached 1,034, with 16,799 people treated for cholera or symptoms of the disease.
The country was thrust into further disarray following November"s presidential election. There were widespread allegations of irregularities, such as ballot-box stuffing, people casting multiple votes, discarded ballots, vandalized polling stations, and voter intimidation. Opposition candidates called for a revote, but their requests were rebuffed. On December 7 2010, the country"s electoral commission announced that Mirlande Manigat, the top vote getter, and Jude Célestin, the hand-picked candidate of Pré val, would face off in the second round of voting.