Haiti: "In for a Decade, Not Just a Year"
Haiti: "In for a Decade, Not Just a Year"
Op-Ed / Latin America & Caribbean 1 minutes

Haiti: "In for a Decade, Not Just a Year"

Haiti has sustained what may be the most severe natural disaster ever in the Western Hemisphere. Its historically weak physical and institutional infrastructure, and the sad fact that the earthquake’s heaviest blow was delivered to the capital city’s core, have only compounded Haiti’s vulnerability.

The blockages from collapsed roads, bridges and ports will make this relief effort even more difficult than in previous disasters. No matter how much the United States gives, there cannot be enough relief for the desperately needy victims in the time frame that anyone would want.

Even so, the U.S. leapt into an all-of-government response: President Obama has chaired interagency sessions, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cut short her trip to Australia, the U.S. Agency for International Development sent its prepositioned disaster relief and search and rescue teams to help U.N. peacekeepers within a day, and aircraft carriers and support ships were in place within 60 hours.

It was right to do so. The U.S. has a special obligation that it shares with others in the hemisphere. Haiti is part of the Americas. There are 800,000 Haitian-Americans living in America, and as many as 100,000 undocumented migrants. The two countries have shared long historical engagement, both negative and positive.

In the coming days and hours, more heroic efforts are needed to save lives. An equally large, internationally coordinated plan must provide institutional triage for a Haitian government whose ministries have collapsed. And when the relief phase of this disaster is over and the enormous task of recovery begins, the U.S. must ensure that international efforts match the magnitude of the devastation. They must work hand-in-hand with the Haitian government, Canada, the Latin American, European and other nations who have also sent immediate help, to offer jobs, security and hope to Haitians, or the pressures on Haitian families will inevitably lead some to take their desperation to rafts on the seas.

Helping Haiti emerge from this disaster will require the hemisphere’s largest-ever recovery and reconstruction investment in recent history — a commitment not for a year but for at least a decade.

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