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Congresswoman Waters Hosts Haiti Update with Key Stakeholders in Los Angeles

August 11, 2010
Press Release

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35) hosted a briefing this past weekend to provide an update on relief efforts in Haiti.  A panel of experts discussed past progress, current needs and future plans in the country. She issued the following statement after the meeting:

"I was extremely pleased to convene a briefing for an update on recovery efforts in Haiti along with hosts Pastor John J. Hunter and First Lady Denise Hunter of FAME Church in Los Angeles this past weekend, and I am encouraged that there continues to be very high interest among American citizens in the future of Haiti, demonstrated by the large turnout of people anxious to see the struggling nation succeed.

Seven months after the earthquake in Haiti, over one million Haitians are living in unacceptable and deplorable conditions in tent cities in and around Port-au-Prince. The ongoing misery of the people of Haiti is partly a result of weak governance in Haiti, and partly a result of ineffective foreign aid policy by the U.S. government. American citizens who care about Haiti must work to improve oversight over the distribution of U.S. foreign aid and insist on strong democratic governance in Haiti.

I led a discussion and presentation that included updates from key stakeholders who have been on the ground in Haiti and who are working to provide humanitarian assistance, support recovery efforts, and protect human rights for the Haitian people.

Battalion Chief Larry Collins, who spoke on behalf of the Los Angeles County Fire Department Urban Search and Rescue Taskforce, received tremendous applause for the Taskforce's work in Haiti to save lives. I had the privilege to work with the Taskforce on the ground in Haiti during my visits, and I appreciate and honor their work.

Caitlin Klevorick, speaking for the U.S. State Department, and two representatives of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) gave a limited presentation on the role that USAID is playing in the recovery efforts, and passed out literature outlining some of the agency's work in Haiti. I informed USAID's representatives that I have serious concerns about their work in Haiti.  USAID could be doing a much better job distributing food to people in need, improving sanitation, ensuring security for residents of tent cities, reducing turnover among USAID personnel, increasing procurement opportunities for small businesses in Haiti, and monitoring preparations for the upcoming Haitian elections.  I recently had the opportunity to meet with and question Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, in Washington, DC, about some of my concerns.

Nicole Phillips, Staff Attorney for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, offered a critical analysis of the weak governance plaguing the country, and made a call for on-time, democratic elections in November for the Presidency and the National Assembly. We also received a report from TransAfrica Forum, a leading US-based organization committed to the pursuit of human rights and democracy in Haiti.

I have long spoken about the important role that Haiti's unique history has played in its current affairs, and I was very grateful to hear Dr. Maulana Karenga, founder of US Organization and the Kwanzaa holiday, give a passionate description of the country's history. The Haitian slaves' successful rebellion against the French – over two hundred years ago – resulted in the first republic in world history to be ruled by people of African descent. 

There were many Haitians in the audience who participated in the program and shared their vision for the country's future. First Lady Hunter offered church assistance to Mickelson Civil, Founder and President of Vie Water, who works on clean water projects in Haiti.

Jimmy Jean-Louis, Haitian actor, activist and founder of Hollywood Unites for Haiti, made an impassioned presentation based on his recent visit to Haiti, describing the deplorable conditions in the camps and asking for continued help and support for his country.

The panelists and I entertained questions from the audience, and there was a consensus that we must continue the struggle to relieve the misery in Haiti and support a new Haiti through the construction of homes, schools, businesses, health clinics and hospitals, and new and improved roads, water systems, and other infrastructure.

I shall continue my advocacy on behalf of Haiti."