THE BLOG
06/14/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Michelle Obama's Promise to Haiti

haiti tent cities

First Lady Michelle Obama's visit to Haiti brought with it a familiar frenzy of flashing cameras, microphones, fresh legal pads - and a lot of chaos. But the best part was how welcome it seemed to have the world's eyes back on Haiti.

Because there is a lot that needs to be done here.

My colleague Dina Prior, head of International Medical Corps' Emergency Response Team, attended the meeting during which the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden thanked relief workers for our efforts here. To Dina and me, and probably many other international assistance workers in Haiti, the most rewarding message out of this meeting was not her words of appreciation, but her promise of continuing to support for this battered country at a time when the emergency phase is officially winding down and public attention is waning.

We all saw the heart-wrenching images that poured out of Haiti in the weeks immediately following the January 12 earthquake, the bodies scattered across the streets and search-and-rescue teams frantically moving iron rebar and heavy rubble from destroyed buildings to rescue those who were trapped.

The world shook with Haiti. And all levels of the international community - the United Nations, NGOs, governments, corporations, and individuals all around the world chipped in what they could or got on a plane to help. The result was unprecedented. Millions of dollars were raised. Hundreds of thousands of lives were saved. And a country did not lose hope even in its darkest hour.

USAID

Despite the scale of the relief effort, the truth is that Haiti is about to face two more emergencies, and much of the world is unaware of it. I'm afraid the world is now numb to Haiti's troubles, and I'm hoping the First Lady's visit will remind people that our commitment to Haiti should not end with the official emergency phase.

The heavy rains are starting to fall nightly, and the United Nations and NGOs, including International Medical Corps, are working together to start the long process of relocating camps that either are perched on a hill or buried in the crevice of a riverbed -- so that thousands of lives are not lost in landslides and flash floods.

International Medical Corps is already facing increased operational challenges trying to prepare for these rains. We are fortifying our clinics with sandbags, plastic sheeting, even platforms so they do not close when the rains fall hard. We also need to heavily stock our field sites outside of Port-au-Prince so that they can continue their programs even if roads and bridges are washed away. Our clinics, many of which are located in camps, could be even more critical during rainy season, as diseases like malaria and typhoid fever and ongoing issues like malnutrition are likely to increase.

And all of this will be followed by the second emergency, hurricanes, which could begin as early as July.

Haiti earthquake

These are challenges that now face a country that is still reeling from a 7.0 earthquake that killed more than 230,000 people and left another million homeless. And Mrs. Obama's pledge that the United States will not forget Haiti, that it is committed to helping it recover and rebuild, was one that I hope inspired others to not forget Haiti, even when the camera lenses are pointed elsewhere.

Because, as I say, there is a lot that needs to be done here.