Tomorrow, I'll travel to Haiti for the second time since the earthquake to meet with Haitian leaders and UN officials, visit a local clinic, and deliver much needed supplies to the region, including food, medical supplies, generators, tents, and plastic sheeting.
More than three weeks after the earthquake, the relief efforts in Haiti are being rapidly increased to meet the staggering needs, but the long road to recovery has just begun.
In mere moments, the earthquake not only turned buildings to rubble in Port-au-Prince and communities west of it and took the lives of nearly 200,000 people, it set back the impressive progress Haiti had been making to overcome 200 years of poverty, neglect and oppression. What we do now and in the weeks and months ahead to help the people and the government of Haiti will have an enormous impact on the country's future. A coordinated and sustained response by the international community, in partnership with the Haitian government can make the difference between whether Haiti "builds back better" -- or just builds back unsafe buildings that can't survive hurricanes and earthquakes; a fragile and stagnant economy; a health care system with gaping inequalities; an education system with the lowest enrollment rates in the Western hemisphere; and continued and rampant deforestation. Before the earthquake, the Haitian government had adopted a comprehensive development plan designed to build a stronger country in the aftermath of the 2008 hurricanes. The Haitian people supported it. They don't want to go back and so we must help them move forward.
The success of Haiti is deeply personal to me. As President, my administration helped restore democratic leadership in Haiti and supported peacekeeping and efforts to grow the economy. After I left office, I continued my commitment to Haiti through my Foundation, working with the Haitian government to strengthen health systems and decrease the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and other diseases. After four hurricanes ravaged Haiti in 2008, I asked members of the Clinton Global Initiative to make commitments to help rebuild the country -- in response, businesses and individuals pledged more than $100 million toward that end.
In early 2009, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked me to serve as UN Special Envoy for Haiti. For months before the earthquake, I worked alongside the people and government of Haiti, international donors, business leaders, NGOs, and the Haitian diaspora to help the country implement its development plan. I remain committed to completing my mission, and in spite of the quake I still believe Haiti can break the chains of poverty and desperation.
In a recent press conference, Secretary-General Ban detailed the UN's immediate and mid-term priorities of providing humanitarian relief and aid, providing security and stability, and helping reconstruct the Haitian economy.
But as we've learned after past disasters, such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, it will take more than governments or UN agencies alone to move beyond tragedy. In the days immediately following the earthquake, my Foundation set up a relief fund and I personally delivered food, water, and much needed medical supplies to Port-au-Prince and the General Hospital there, and met with Haitian officials to inform our continued response.
President Obama also asked President George W. Bush and me to lead a joint fundraising effort to engage Americans and citizens around the world in supporting recovery and rebuilding efforts. We established the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, with funds allocated for reputable organizations providing direct relief and assistance to survivors, including medical care, food, water, shelter, and education, in areas like Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, Saint Martin and Martissant.
Already, we've raised more than $20 million from people like Robert who has been unemployed for seven months; Frank, who is giving what he can from his social security check; and Dawn's class of third-graders who saved $31.74 in pennies for an ice cream party, but decided to donate it to Haiti relief instead. You can donate at www.clintonbushhaitifund.org.
In addition to private citizens and NGOS, the international business community is playing an enormous role in recovery, not just in aid but for job generation. Several sectors will be ripe for opportunities to do business, including agribusiness, tourism, textiles, crop processing, call centers, and alternative energy. Jobs could be generated by addressing other challenges throughout the country, including projects focused on rural infrastructure and communications, rural access to power, and reforestation.
Before the earthquake hit, I believed for the first time in my life that Haiti finally had a chance to create a modern economy and a just society, a nation worthy of the abilities, hard work, and dreams of its people. The President and Prime Minister remain committed to that goal. Continued support from government and international donors, NGOs, the private sector and individual citizens can still give Haiti that chance. But we have to stay focused on the work ahead; we have to keep the aid and assistance flowing; and we have to do so in a way that is coordinated, effective, transparent and accountable, to help the most people in the short run and do the most good over the long run.
In the midst of an awful tragedy, the Haitian people are reimagining a future that the Haitian government is committed to build. It won't be easy, it won't be quick, but it can be done. And we can help.
More:Bill Clinton Haiti Haiti Earthquake Bill Clinton Haiti Relief William J. Clinton Foundation Clinton Bush Haiti Fund
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