The post-disaster humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti have faced many obstacles. The magnitude 7 earthquake that hit near Port-Au-Prince on January 12th wiped out much of the city’s infrastructure. Since about one third of Haiti’s nine million people live in and around the capital, many in crowded conditions, the toll in human suffering was staggering: latest reports indicate more than two hundred thousand have died, and around one million were left homeless.
International response was nearly immediate. The United Nations sent out an international appeal for emergency donations. Millions of dollars were raised by governments, organizations and individuals. But although aid quickly began to arrive from all around the world, reaching all those in need would not be easy. One month after the disaster struck, about one fourth of those who lost their homes have been provided with shelter, and about two million have received food aid. Much more needs to be done, from better sanitation in refugee camps to building shelter for tens of thousands of people, to protecting food delivery convoys.
Haitian farmers urgently need assistance in order to plant crops, which will help provide Haiti with food security in the longer term, as well as reduce the need for emergency food assistance. Nicholas Reader, deputy spokesman for the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that the U.N. expects "the humanitarian need to be significant for the long term. Haiti needed a lot of assistance before the earthquake. The earthquake has compounded those needs."
Seeking to better coordinate the United Nations relief effort, U.N Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has asked former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who had in May been designated a U.N. Special Envoy for Haiti, to oversee U.N. aid efforts and reconstruction in Haiti.
The United States applauds this decision, and looks forward to continuing to work with former President Clinton in his expanded role.
Former President Clinton said in a statement that more than three weeks after the earthquake, the relief efforts in Haiti have been increasing to meet staggering needs, but the long road to recovery had just begun.
"I want to build the capacity of the country to chart its own course. ... That's my goal."