This week marked six months since the earthquake hit my country Haiti, bringing devastation and worsening the already bad conditions there. And though it's a somber time, still, for the people who continue to wait for the rebuilding to begin, we want to keep moving forward--and we desperately want to see progress.
Haiti is always in my heart, and as someone who's been working for the recovery of Haiti since long before the earthquake, I wanted to send a big thanks to the global press corps for helping to make sure people don't forget that the situation in Haiti is still really terrible for millions of men, women and children.
The six-month anniversary was covered in a big way by so many press outlets, and to keep the plight of the Haitians in the public eye is a great thing, truly. My hope is now that we're past the half-year point, the press will keep a spotlight shining on Haiti so that the folks in this world who are able to help will have the country and my countrymen in their thoughts and hearts, and remember that so many things are still badly needed: food, water, housing, jobs, education, security. There are so many issues the media can keep in front of the public.
I was in Haiti on July 12, six months to the day since the quake, and found it as I have each time I've visited this year -- with the rubble still covering too much land, with too many (millions) still living in tents, with too many still frustrated at the slow pace of the recovery. But the positive thing that I see here, as I have my whole life, is the great spirit of the people. They are growing impatient, but they have not given up hope that a brighter future is waiting for them.
Only two percent of all the monies pledged to help Haiti have found their way to where they need to go -- to helping the people. While we sit and debate how to get the money or what's the best use for the money, tons of people are still living in those tents you see in the news stories. If the media can keep reporting on that issue, it may inspire people who donated to the big NGOs to ask those organizations to put their money to work on the ground. It may shame governments into releasing the funds that have been pledged for helping Haiti's recovery. Anything we can do to get the construction equipment fired up and running, we need to do.
The population of Haiti is young -- 65 percent of the nation is under 21, so it's a nation that is growing, literally, and it's a nation that needs tending. Many of the grave issues facing the country are related to the fact that the population is so young, and at the same time, many of the great opportunities we have to help the country are related to the youth of the population.
One such issue that the world needs to keep top of mind is child trafficking: Before the earthquake, this was already a problem in Haiti; since the earthquake, it seems like the problem has tripled. We need stronger policies in place to keep the children safe, stronger enforcing of these policies, in the country and internationally. We need to be watchdogs, and the world needs to help protect these children. The media can serve as the eyes and ears of the world, so that the regular occurrence of these crimes isn't treated as business as usual.
Two things we need to really focus on to move forward and to ensure a better tomorrow for this country are education and job creation. Both are necessary for the youth of Haiti to become self-sufficient, and to ensure that all the help and aid and money that has been pledged and given since the earthquake are just stepping stones on the path to a more productive and happy future for the Haitians. That is what the organization I founded in 2005, Yéle Haiti, is really aiming for.
The best thing I saw on my most recent trip to Haiti was the kids in their uniforms and on their way to school -- amidst all the wreckage and devastation and squalid living conditions, to see those children building a foundation for their futures, that's a beautiful sight.
So to the media, again I say thank you. Keep the awareness alive for the ways in which Haiti is still hurting, but also let the world know that the Haitian people are full of hope. It's up to the international community to ensure that their hope is well-founded.