Last month in Port-au-Prince, President Rene Preval told our congressional delegation that Haiti needs to be "reconfigured" not "reconstructed."
He is right.
Even before the earthquake, development in Haiti was on an unsustainable course. Poor planning, weak building structure, deforestation, soil erosion, and uneven population distribution between urban and rural areas, were all challenges for the Haitian government.
What we learned in Haiti is that the nation can start anew with an innovative approach to promote economic growth and alleviate poverty in an environmentally sustainable manner. President Preval has the vision for a better future for Haiti but he needs help from the international community to implement it.
We visited Haiti on Feb. 12, which marked one month since the earthquake struck. Declared a national day of mourning, it became a day of unity, prayer, and reflection for the Haitian people; a recognition of all that was lost and a sign of their resilience and their commitment to rebuild.
It is in this context that the Haitian government invited our bipartisan, bicameral congressional delegation to visit Haiti to pay our respects to the nation's families, to pledge our support for their future, and to examine the recovery efforts in advance of congressional consideration of long-term assistance for Haiti.
Our delegation observed a moment of silence at the Cathedral of Port-au-Prince on this national day of mourning. The Cathedral was in ruins, but a large cross in front of the Cathedral remained unscathed — an undamaged symbol of hope.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, the call for compassion, aid, and global partnership must be answered — by all of us who are called by our faith and our common humanity to help those in need. Scores of countries and thousands of organizations have worked hand-in-hand to ease the suffering of the Haitian people.
Relief workers and doctors from across the globe and military personnel from America's shores are working around-the-clock to distribute food, water and medical supplies to the injured and the homeless. The personal challenges to Haiti's children are especially troubling. The physical challenges also remain great: we were told it would take 1,000 trucks 1,000 days to remove all of the rubble from Port-au-Prince.
Congress is committed to helping Haiti recover from this tragedy. Congress has not only taken action to express condolences and solidarity with the Haitian people, but also to incentivize charitable giving for Haiti. In the coming weeks, Congress will consider a request from the Obama Administration to help the Haitian people by providing long-term assistance to strengthen the capacity of Haiti's institutions and help its leaders focus on sustainable economic development, reduce the risk of disaster, and prepare for future emergencies.
Our actions will be part of a global effort aligned with the priorities of the Haitian government and aimed at directly empowering the Haitian people to build a future that is better than the past. Strong accountability and transparency must rest at the center of this undertaking.
The moral case alone is reason to help Haiti, but it is also in our national interest. We have an urgent responsibility to help provide a foundation for a stable and more prosperous neighbor. Sustained and constructive American leadership is essential in this fight.
The United States and Haiti share a long history that binds our people together. Haitian immigrants, strengthened by their Haitian heritage, have thrived and contributed to the beautiful diversity of America. They have graced us their artistic genius and entrepreneurial spirit.
The American people have echoed President Obama's clear message in the wake of the tragedy: "You will not be forsaken. You will not be forgotten." This is imperative for the children of Haiti. It is imperative that we continue to support the Haitian people in the reconfiguration of Haiti.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of San Francisco, is Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. She can be reached at her official Web sitewww.house.gov/pelosi/.
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