Letters to the Editor

Haiti shouldn't be neglected

Editor's note: The following editorial appeared Tuesday in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Six months after an earthquake leveled Haiti, its streets are still piled with rubble. About 1.6 million people remain homeless, most of them living in 1,300 tent cities, and thousands of orphaned children lack access to basic care.

Their plight is in large measure due to the international community's sluggish effort to meet its aid commitment to the country.

The quake killed at least 230,000 people, injured more than 300,000, and caused an estimated $7.3 billion in damage. Relief for a catastrophe of that scale cannot be accomplished quickly. But confusion within Haiti's weak central government and a persistently weak global economy have made the situation worse.

Billions of dollars were pledged worldwide in the weeks after the earthquake. But with many countries still struggling to emerge from the deep recession, the money hasn't flowed to Haiti as quickly. Only a fraction of the U.S. pledge of $1.2 billion in direct aid has reached its destination.

Some progress did occur two weeks ago, when a commission consisting of Haitians and representatives of major donors met for the first time. The commission is chaired by former President Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.

It's hoped that formation of the panel, to oversee construction projects, will encourage various nations and aid groups to meet their pledges. But to date, only 2 percent of the money committed for reconstruction has arrived.

UNICEF reports that safe drinking water is being provided to 1.2 million people, nutrition programs are feeding more than half a million, and more than 275,000 children have been immunized. The situation on the ground has become less desperate.

But six months after the disaster, Haiti needs the international community to pick up the pace. This poor island nation that has seen so much tragedy in its history must not be neglected.