The devastating outbreak of cholera in Haiti has brought the small, impoverished country back into the international spotlight. After the tragic earthquakes that shook Port-Au-Prince and surrounding cities in the beginning of the year, millions of people from around the world responded by donating money, medicine and other relief resources.
Despite the initial overwhelming support, there has been too little follow through. Our inability to turn from emergency relief to long-term reconstruction has left Haitian citizens susceptible to disease, further disaster, and despair. The cholera epidemic compounds the state of emergency and requires international mobilization, led by the United States, now. Many donors have not honored their commitment to Haiti, and the crisis is deepening. We need a full time czar and a plan for reconstruction.
Haiti must have a higher place on our priority list. It is our promise, our history, our neighbor.
Doctors have confirmed there are over 3,000 cholera patients and another 259 have died due to the disease. A year after the earthquake, the shanties, tents and open sewers are preventing even minimal standards of health and welfare for the people. In July, a CNN investigation revealed that since the quake that left thousands of children orphaned and up to 1.5 million people living on the streets and in makeshift camps, much of the aid promised to the country has yet to be delivered. Most governments that promised money to help rebuild the country have not delivered any funds at all. Donors promised $5.3 billion at an aid conference in March, just two months after the earthquake, but less than 2 percent of that money has been handed over so far to the United Nations. The United States pledged $1.15 billion. It has paid nothing, with the money tied up in the congressional appropriations process. I hope that former President Clinton, the United Nations and the World Bank refocus on reconstruction of Haiti and fulfill the promises that were made at the beginning of the year. The time is overdue for us to demonstrate our commitment to the long-term emergence of Haiti, not simply its short-term survival.