Congresswoman Waters Urges Help for Haiti
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35) issued the following statement upon learning of the major earthquake in Haiti late this afternoon:
"I am absolutely devastated to learn of the earthquake that struck Haiti late this afternoon. I fear that an earthquake of this magnitude, with its subsequent aftershocks, has dealt a serious blow to the livelihoods and lives of many Haitians and to the important economic, political and social developments that are underway in the country.
Haiti is already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. I have traveled to Haiti many times, and I have seen the poverty and desperation of the Haitian people with my own eyes. There is widespread unemployment and underemployment, and more than two-thirds of Haitian workers do not have formal jobs. There is a high risk of infectious diseases, including diarrhea, hepatitis, typhoid fever, dengue fever and malaria. The infant mortality rate is nearly 6 percent, and almost half of the adult population cannot read and write.
Many people have worked hard over the years to assist the people of Haiti. I have worked with officials in the U.S. Government and international organizations to bring economic development to Haiti. Meanwhile, dedicated people working with charities and non-governmental organizations are on the ground in Haiti trying to end poverty and help the Haitian people build a brighter future for themselves and their children.
I have also worked very hard over several years to bring debt cancellation to Haiti, which owed over one billion dollars in debts to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and other multilateral financial institutions. Last June, the World Bank announced that all of these debts would be completely canceled.
Yet for the people of Haiti, every step forward seems to be followed by three steps backward. In August and September of 2008, Haiti was struck by four hurricanes and tropical storms in rapid succession: Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike. The loss of life and the destruction of infrastructure as a result of these storms were devastating. The storms destroyed more than 22,000 houses and damaged an additional 84,000 houses. Almost all of the agricultural land in the country was flooded, causing more than $200 million in damage to the agricultural sector alone and exacerbating hunger throughout the country. The storms also damaged or destroyed roads, bridges and other essential infrastructure.
I had hoped that this year would be a year of recovery for Haiti. Yet this earthquake could prove to be even more damaging than the storms of 2008. We do not yet know the full extent of the damage, but certainly many Haitians have lost their lives or their loved ones, and many survivors will have lost their homes or livelihoods.
As much as one can be at this time, I am encouraged by statements of support and solidarity from President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and the international community. I urge the U.S. Government, the international community, nonprofit organizations and even individual people to take all appropriate actions to respond to this earthquake and help the Haitian people recover from this terrible tragedy.
My heart is with the people of Haiti tonight, and I commit myself to doing everything I can to help them through this terrible disaster."
Visit Congresswoman Waters' Page on Haiti
For American citizens trying to contact and/or find out information about family, friends and other loved ones in Haiti, please use the State Department hotline that has been set up at (888) 407-4747.
For Haitian citizens in the U.S. looking for the same information, please call the Haitian Embassy in Washington, DC at (202) 332-4090 or the Haitian Consulate in Miami at (305) 859-2003.
The White House and the United States Agency for International Development are asking for donations to the American Red Cross. I encourage all those who are able to contribute to do so - together we can all make a difference and help the Haitian people during this critical time of need. The secured donor page can be accessed by clicking here.
The State Department is also encouraging donations. You can simply text "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross & Mercy Corps to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill.
Additionally, persons who wish to provide assistance or expertise in Haiti are asked to contact the Center for International Disaster Information. The Center, operated under a grant from the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, has established a dedicated page to coordinate Haiti support at: https://www.cidi.org/incident/haiti-10a/.