People wonder where Haiti will be in 20 years. Will it have a solid, honest government? A robust infrastructure? A thriving economy? Will it be free of reliance on foreign aid to feed its people? We can begin to answer these questions right now by what we do for Haiti's children.
Because the more we ensure today that Haiti's children are healthy and have the opportunity to go to school, the more we ensure the success of Haiti's future. It's a very simple equation.
Luckily, we have strong allies in this equation: Haiti's children themselves. The quiet determination of this nation's youngsters has awed me, time after time, on my trips to Haiti.
I've met children who walk hours each day to and from school. Who, after a long day, return exhausted to the tents they live in and methodically wash their school uniforms so they will be fresh for the following day. They've seen more than any child should see, lost more than any child should loose, taken on more than any child should ever have to take on. And yet you would be hard-pressed to find Haitian children who feel sorry for themselves. Or who have given up on their country or on their hope for a better future.
In fact, one of the biggest fears I've seen children in Haiti express is that the world will forget them. These children desperately need the aid that UNICEF and other organizations are supplying -- aid made possible, in part, by the generosity of the American people. The U.S. was the single greatest donor to UNICEF for Haiti relief, and that money is saving and improving children's lives every day. Every American who gave to UNICEF to help Haiti's children whether it was $5 or $500,000 should know that they have made a difference.
Consider just a few examples: 2 million children have been immunized against deadly diseases; 720,000 students have received educational support; and over 94,000 children have been cared for at UNICEF-supported child-friendly spaces.
Yes, too many children still live in tents. Yes, there is still too much rubble in the streets. And yes, all aid organizations should now be taking a hard look at what we can do better. I know UNICEF is. We will continue to place Haiti's children at the center stage in the recovery and rebuilding process. It's the best possible investment in Haiti's future.
How do we make this investment? Haiti's children need to stay healthy and go to school. They need clean water and nutritious food. They need to be protected from exploitation and abuse. But they also need to know that the world is still in their corner, as they continue to rise from the aftermath of this monumental tragedy.
Americans have been very generous with their resources and now is the time for us to lend our voices as well. Let Haiti's children and the world know that you stand by them as they continue their journey.
There are many ways to send them messages. Write the organization you donated to on behalf of Haiti and ask them to pass on your message. Or visit the site we've set up www.unicefhaiti365.org/ and upload a video telling Haiti's children that you won't forget them.
Follow Caryl Stern on Twitter: www.twitter.com/carylstern