Local Haitian urges White House to help

January 11, 2011

Produced by Worldview & NPR News

Download Story
(Getty/Joe Raedle)
Many Haitians lost limbs when walls fell on them during the massive earthquake that hit Haiti January 12, 2010.

A group of Haitian-American leaders, including Evanston alderman and president of The Congress to Fortify Haiti Lionel Jean-Baptiste, have urged the Obama administration to deepen their commitment to Haiti in the aftermath of last year’s devastating earthquake. The topics they addressed included nation building, homeland security, and the election.

Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary since an earthquake killed at least 230,000 Haitians and injured thousands more on the island nation. Today, more than one million people displaced by the earthquake are still living in temporary tents and reconstruction has barely begun.

Haiti’s reconstruction effort overall is hampered by the failure to deliver or spend billions of dollars in promised aid, which is complicated by the lack of leadership by both Haiti’s government and international community. Jean-Baptiste told Worldview’s Jermone McDonnell that this could be resolved by: organizing the allocation of funds, bringing in outsiders to train local workers and offering incentives for Haitians to stay in their country.

In addition to the devastation wrought by the quake, a cholera epidemic has killed more than 3,600 people, and an electoral crisis between the current president Rene Preval's ruling party and its rivals threaten to break an increasingly fragile political stability.

“The election is stuck and the process of trying to get a resolution with the government is important in order to move forward,” said Jean-Baptiste on Worldview.

He also hopes the U.S. will extend the stay for Haitians who are here illegally and who have committed crimes. Currently the government is planning on deporting 50 Haitians each month, something he thinks will only aggravate things further. “Why would you want to begin to deport people who will have no way to live except to prey on people?” said Jean-Baptiste. 

On Friday January 14, join Jean-Baptiste and others will gather at Columbia College for “The Study of Haiti,” an exhibition, performance and commemoration that marks the one-year anniversary of the Haitian earthquake.