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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

U.S. Government's Role in Haiti Relief

Bureau of Resource Management
May 10, 2010


Photo showing USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah delivering remarks on the situation in Haiti during a special briefing at the State Department, Washington, January 13, 2010. U.S. SOUTHCOM Commander General Douglas Fraser and State Department Counselor Cheryl Mills standing behind him.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah delivers remarks on the situation in Haiti during a special briefing at the State Department, Washington, January 13, 2010. U.S. SOUTHCOM Commander General Douglas Fraser and State Department Counselor Cheryl Mills stand behind him. Department of State Image

On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck southern Haiti, with an epicenter 10 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince. On January 13, President Obama named the USAID the lead Federal agency for earthquake relief and reconstruction. The U.S. Government’s joint civilian-military response to assist the Haitian people following the earthquake is being carried out in coordination with the United Nations, the international community, and nongovernmental organizations worldwide. The Department of State and USAID work as one to coordinate the overall American humanitarian response, successfully demonstrating the ongoing linkage of diplomacy and development. Preliminary estimates of the Haitian death toll ranged from 150,000 to 200,000, with at least another 200,000 people seriously injured, and one million displaced by the earthquake. As of April 1, 2010, over $9 billon for relief had been pledged by the international community.

In support of the Government of Haiti, the United States focused its initial efforts on saving lives and life-sustaining activities. U.S. assessment teams evaluated public health requirements, the structural integrity of critical infrastructure, and longer-term food and nutrition needs – all with a view to post-disaster reconstruction. The Department also coordinated assistance to American citizens affected by the disaster in Haiti, and provided information on individuals to their relatives in the United States as it became available. As of April 16, 2010, USAID had provided more than $574 million in response to the Haiti earthquake, including support for search and rescue, health, nutrition, humanitarian coordination and information management, protection, economic recovery and market systems, and water, sanitation, and hygiene activities, as well as logistical support and provision of emergency food aid and relief supplies. President Obama characterized the American contribution by saying “…we are moving forward with one of the largest relief efforts in our history — to save lives and to deliver relief that averts an even larger catastrophe. In these difficult hours, America stands united. We stand united with the people of Haiti, who have shown such incredible resilience, and we will help them to recover and to rebuild.”

On January 25, Secretary Clinton attended a meeting in Montreal, convened and hosted by Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon to lay the foundation for a reconstruction donors’ conference to be held following the completion of a joint needs assessment. Assisting Haiti to recover from this devastation and rebuild for the future will require many years of active involvement by the world community. Experts agree that among the priority reconstruction goals are restoring roads, scaling up existing community development programs, and addressing reforestation requirements. Critical to long-term success will be government capacity building assistance from all donors. Efforts in the reconstruction of Haiti cannot just return to the old status quo, and as World Bank President and former Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick has said, “…we must emphasize learning from the past as we rebuild for the future.” For further information on the U.S. government’s role in Haiti relief, visit State's 2010 Earthquake in Haiti and USAID's Help for Haiti.

Satellite image of the Caribbean with an inset showing a closer view of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.


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