January 12th marks the fifth anniversary of a catastrophic earthquake in Haiti that the United Nations characterized as “the largest urban disaster in modern history.”
Some three million people were directly affected by the disaster. More than 200,000 people were estimated to have been killed and 300,000 injured while about 1.5 million people were displaced.
The United States was one of the first neighbors to respond, sending search and rescue teams as part of an international effort. Through the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, the United States participated in the largest emergency food distribution to date, which fed nearly four million people and provided water for 1.3 million people daily.
Since the earthquake, the U.S. Congress has made a total of approximately $4 billion available for Haiti. U.S. assistance is making a real difference in the lives of tens of thousands of Haitians. We have helped to shelter 328,000 displaced persons. We are improving access to financial services, including micro-loans to some 20,000 micro-enterprises.
About half of all Haitians now have access to basic health care at U.S.-supported medical centers. And we have helped some 70,000 farmers achieve significant crop yield increases. We have helped to train 3,300 new Haitian National Police officers. The U.S.-supported Caracol Industrial Park has so far created 5,000 needed jobs with more expected as facilities expand.
Despite enormous challenges, Haiti has made significant advances since the earthquake. More than 90 percent of displaced persons have left tent camps for alternative shelter, basic health indicators are up, new jobs are being created, security has improved, and Haiti has benefitted from positive economic growth rates each year since 2011.
Nonetheless, much more remains to be done, and Haiti’s reconstruction and development will continue for many years. Haiti’s success also hinges on sustaining strong democratic institutions. Key to this is the organization of overdue legislative elections. Timely free and fair elections are essential for Haiti’s democratic development and to advance gains made in reconstruction and development.
Today, the reconstruction continues. The United States remains committed to partnering with the Government and people of Haiti, and will continue its work to help Haiti become a more stable and prosperous country.