A year ago, on January 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake in the Caribbean island nation of Haiti killed more than 235,000 people. The catastrophe left nearly 1.3 billion people homeless and an entire nation traumatized.
Since then Haiti has received a tremendous outpouring of support from the international community. It was the generosity of foreign governments and individual citizens, facilitated by technology and social media that immediately helped save lives and maintain some sense of order in the aftermath of the disaster. And it is our commitment to the work of rebuilding their communities and restoring their faith in both the economic and political system that will help enable Haitians to overcome their distress.
Our nation must continue to lead an aggressive, coordinated effort to aid Haiti?s ongoing recovery. We must continue to extend tax breaks and encourage trade and development that will not only generate jobs, but also reconstruct better roads, buildings and schools. We must make it easier for doctors and nurses to get the tools and medicine they need. We must also help the Haitian people utilize their strengths and resources ?– especially their entrepreneurial spirit — to create the kind of local and global partnerships that will empower people to break the cycle of poverty.
That is why I am proudly joining other members of the Congressional Black Caucus and other Members of Congress to call for a one-year extension of the Temporary Protection Status that was granted to Haitian nationals residing in the United States. The growing cholera epidemic and civil unrest add to the fragility and volatility in Haiti, where more than a million displaced persons still live in tent camps. The rebuilding process has been slow and America should provide temporary haven to Haitians who currently do not have a safe home to return to.
America must also continue to provide the kind of support and technical expertise to ensure transparency in the government and elections in Haiti. With billions of dollars still remaining to be disbursed, we must work with local partners to ensure that the funds are spent on getting the Haitian people back on their feet, and not lining the pockets of corrupt bureaucrats.
Many challenges remain ahead in the recovery of Haiti. But there are signs of hope, especially in the work of countless NGOs and volunteers who stayed when television cameras turned away. We must not lose faith in the resiliency of the Haitian people. We must not waver in our commitment to help them help themselves.
Congressman Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) wrote this piece to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the Caribbean nation of Haiti.