Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haiti, for the Long Run: Sustained Effort Needed

Miami Herald Editorial

Over the decades, those who have sought to help Haiti win a better future have learned a bitter lesson: the road to failure is paved with good intentions and worthy plans. This time, for the sake of Haiti’s nine million inhabitants, everyone must get it right.Unfortunately, the Obama administration veered far off course, endangering the lives of hundreds of grievously injured earthquake victims when it halted U.S. military flights on Wednesday that were supposed to take patients to American hospitals, mostly in South Florida. The military first blamed Gov. Charlie Crist, who had asked federal officials to spread the care to other states with trauma hospitals and sought for the federal government to share the costs.The governor’s reasonable request became a pretext for the military to halt flights for the most severely injured victims. Washington officials added other excuses over the weekend, saying logistical challenges made it difficult to find U.S. airport runways capable of having large military planes land near trauma hospitals that were waiting to help. Pathetic.By Sunday, the White House promised flights would resume Monday morning. It’s unconscionable that this situation ever occurred and that it would take so many days to resolve.

Beyond the immediate needs of helping an estimated 200,000 Haitians injured in the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands, this hemisphere’s poorest country needs a decades-long commitment from the international community. It’s the only way to bring Haiti into the community of prosperous nations.

A good start was made at the recent Montreal conference, where participants seemed to realize the magnitude of the recovery task. Another round takes place this week. Next month, a conference at the United Nations should produce more-concrete plans.

The notion of a Marshall Plan for Haiti captures the spirit of what Haiti is going to need, including training Haitians — from pipe fitters to accountants — to reconstruct their country. Just throwing money at the problem isn’t enough. Nor will piecemeal efforts work.

In the coming weeks and months, we will examine Haiti’s needs and the recovery effort in depth. Several areas will dominate the task of creating a new Haiti:

• Governance. Haitians might balk at surrendering any measure of sovereignty, but some sort of international authority must have a strong say in guiding the aid effort and making decisions about where the money goes and avoiding corruption.

• Orphans. Some one million children are orphaned or lost one parent. The government is right to call a halt to large-scale adoptions by foreigners at this moment, but ultimately these children will need homes, many outside of Haiti.

• Diaspora. Haitians living abroad are some of the country’s best and brightest. They want to help. Allowing them a say in the government of that country by permitting dual citizenship will ease the way.

• Security. Partisan rancor seemed to have abated in the last year, but U.S. forces will be needed to keep order while there is a humanitarian crisis, and the pre-existing U.N. force will need reinforcements over the longer run.

Above all, Haiti needs a sustained effort. In the past, well-meaning countries and aid partners lost interest or just gave up far too soon. A few years is too short a time to fix all the things that are wrong.

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