U.S. Department of State

Haiti: One Year Later

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Office of the Haiti Special Coordinator
January 10, 2011

The January 12 Earthquake
U.S. Response to the Earthquake
Hurricane Tomas
Multilateral Partnership, Haitian Lead
United States Strategy on Haiti
The Need, the Response, Constraints

--Pillar I: Infrastructure and Energy
--Pillar II: Food and Economic Security

--Pillar III: Health and Other Basic Services
--Pillar IV: Governance and Rule of Law


Haiti: One Year Later summarizes U.S. efforts in the aftermath of the devastating January 12, 2010 earthquake. Over the past year the United States helped lead a global effort that saved countless lives, rallied support for Haiti’s reconstruction, and began to build Haiti’s capacity to deliver basic services and provide for Haiti's future. From the first post-earthquake moments, the tremendous generosity and compassion of the American people have supported public and private humanitarian assistance. One of every two U.S. households contributed in some way to Haitian relief and Haitian rebuilding. Working with the Government of Haiti and the United Nations system, the U.S. Government has been able to support many critical tasks. The response of the international community to that natural disaster reflects an unprecedented level of bilateral and multilateral cooperation, in which the United States has been a key partner in working together with Haitians and other international partners – public and private – to make progress in rebuilding Haiti. In total, more than 140 nations supported the rescue and relief efforts in Haiti, from Cuba to China and from Israel to Colombia.

Much of the rebuilding lies ahead; overcoming challenges unique to Haiti will require resolve. Even before the catastrophe, Haiti suffered for decades as the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere. The country exhibited one of the widest income inequalities in the world. Eighty percent of Haiti’s inhabitants lived in poverty, with more than half the population living on less than $2 per day. Haiti suffered the lowest life expectancy, highest infant mortality and highest tuberculosis rates in the region; and an estimated 40 % of the population lacked access to basic health services. Half of Haiti’s children were not vaccinated. Less than 53% of Haiti’s adult population was literate, and half of its school-age children attended no form of school. Inadequate infrastructure reflected years of government corruption or neglect. Only 12% of Haitians had formal access to electricity.

In March 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton identified Haiti as a foreign policy priority and called for a whole-of-government review of U.S. engagement and assistance. In 2011, Haiti remains a priority, its challenges and needs even greater. The United States is making the long-term commitment essential to helping Haiti rebuild on a strong foundation able to sustain its people and assume its role in the region.


At 4:53 p.m. local time on January 12, 2010, a powerful earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale struck Haiti just 16 miles from the capital city of Port-au-Prince, home to an estimated 2.35 million people. More than fifty significant aftershocks followed over the next ten days.

In the scale of its humanitarian impact, the earthquake was the most severe natural disaster Haiti had ever recorded. According to Government of Haiti estimates, 230,000 people died and another 300,000 were injured. Hundreds of thousands of buildings were destroyed or damaged, and, according to Haitian authorities' estimates, as many as one million people were left homeless. Infrastructure losses included 28 out of 29 government ministries buildings, 50 hospitals and health centers, and 1,300 educational institutions. The human losses among Haiti’s civil service were also devastating. The quake crippled seaports and the Port-au-Prince airport, and millions of cubic yards of rubble choked the capital. By Red Cross estimates, the earthquake directly affected as many as three million Haitians.


The United States reacted swiftly to the news of the catastrophic earthquake, continues to assist the Haitian government and people with life-saving and sustaining programs, and has committed long-term support. President Obama directed a “swift, coordinated and aggressive” U.S. Government response under the leadership of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah. The morning following the earthquake, President Obama pledged U.S. Government help, and on January 14 announced a $100-million initial commitment of aid.

The U.S. Government response has grown to be the largest international humanitarian response to a natural disaster in U.S. history. The whole-of-government effort ultimately encompassed a wide range of agencies. Their combined efforts provided humanitarian assistance that saved and sustained the lives of millions of Haitians nationwide. Early response actions and actors included the following.

Just four days after the earthquake, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meeting with President René Préval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive in Haiti, reiterated the United States’ commitment to support Haiti. President Préval asked Secretary Clinton to provide comprehensive U.S. Government assistance. At the conclusion of the Secretary’s trip, President Préval and Secretary Clinton issued a communiqué outlining the Government of Haiti’s request and the U.S. Government’s commitment. Following the communiqué, the U.S. military began to assist with disaster relief operations and allowed the U.S. Government to manage the airport and ports during the emergency, to ensure greatest efficiency in meeting the most immediate needs of the Haitian people until the Government of Haiti could resume control.

The goal in the immediate term was to save and protect lives, and in-country resources continued to grow to meet this goal. The USAID DART and a 72-member Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team from Fairfax County, Virginia, were on the ground with 24 hours of the earthquake, bringing emergency relief and rescue tools and expertise. The U.S. teams rescued 47 individuals, contributing to the international USAR team total rescues of 134, the largest number of known rescues in an international disaster response. The conference room in the U.S. Embassy became a surgical ward, and Embassy grounds became home to hundreds of responders in tents. The U.S. Coast Guard was also on the scene within 24 hours of the earthquake, providing medical assistance and evacuating American citizens and earthquake victims requiring critical cases.

Between January 17 and February 22, the 1,100 deployed medical staff from the Department of Health and Human Services’ twelve disaster medical assistance teams and three international medical surgical teams attended more than 31,300 patients, performed 167 surgeries and delivered 45 babies. They also provided critical medical supplies and equipment, such as medicines and mobile medical tents, to the response effort. Medical teams aboard the USNS Comfort treated hundreds of the most critically injured trauma victims, including performing more than 840 surgeries.

By the end of January, U.S. efforts in Haiti included more than 15,400 troops afloat and 6,800 on the ground, 113 aircraft, and 23 Navy ships, present at the request of the Government of Haiti. Working in coordination with USAID relief programs and priorities identified by disaster response experts on the scene, U.S. military forces distributed more than 2,600,000 liters of water, almost 2,300,000 meals, and over 17,000,000 pounds of bulk food. Operation Unified Response was the U.S. military’s longest and largest contribution to a foreign disaster relief operation, covering a wide range of missions: air and seaport operations, medical airlift, medical assistance, transport and delivery of medical commodities, evacuations of American citizens, logistics support, and support for the World Food Program surge.

The U.S. Government supported the delivery of emergency shelter to earthquake victims at an unprecedented rate, and was part of an international effort that provided 1.5 million people with basic shelter materials before May 1, the onset of the rainy season. By July, the six-month mark, the United States, through USAID and its partners and in coordination with Haitian authorities and humanitarian organizations, had been providing safe drinking water to approximately 1.3 million people daily since early May, providing the most economically vulnerable Haitians with more access to safe water than before the earthquake. The United States, through USAID, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense, collaborated to restore the fuel supply to Haiti, without which the distribution of relief supplies would have been severely delayed.

On January 23, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah traveled to Haiti to assess ongoing earthquake relief efforts and meet with local officials. Administrator Shah met with Haitian President René Préval and discussed recovery efforts and Haiti’s urgent needs. Administrator Shah, together with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, also visited the site of the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince, where USAR teams had been working around the clock since the hotel’s collapse in the earthquake trapped hundreds of people in the rubble.

By the one-year anniversary of the earthquake, the United States had contributed significantly to an international effort that fed more than four million people. Together with the Haitian government, the United States assisted 80% of children who had been attending school before the earthquake to return to school. U.S. relief programs prioritized activities that benefit the local Haitian economy by promoting short-term job generation – funding cash-for-work programs employing over 8,000 people per day at sites nationwide for projects from rubble removal to, more recently, cholera response.


A significant undertaking post-earthquake was ensuring that those Haitians displaced by the quake were not at risk from the impending hurricane season. The U.S. Government, through USAID and the Department of Defense, led efforts to prevent loss of life due to flooding from tropical storms in and around Port-au-Prince. USAID funded the clearing of 95 kilometers of drainage canals and over 263,500 cubic meters of garbage and sludge that cause flooding and loss of life each year in Haiti. Additional flood mitigation efforts in internally displaced person (IDP) camps included the digging of drainage ditches to ensure the smooth flow of water, terracing, digging retaining ponds and walls, sandbagging, and building safety fences. Additionally, in advance of hurricane season, USAID pre-positioned a range of supplies throughout the country, including water containers, blankets, hygiene kits, and kitchen sets, which allowed for rapid response to storms. Twenty-one people were killed by Tomas which passed by Haiti on November 5. In contrast, there were more than 1,000 dead or missing after Tropical Storms Hanna and Fay and Hurricane Gustav hit Haiti in 2008.


Support to Haiti’s reconstruction continues the unprecedented multilateral cooperation begun during the emergency response. In Haiti as elsewhere, the United States recognizes that multilateral partnerships offer opportunities to pool political, military and humanitarian assets while sharing the costs and burdens of the international response.

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)’s human and other resources were decimated by the Haitian earthquake. As MINUSTAH recovered, the U.S. Government deployed national assets to help bolster the depleted mission. The U.S worked with the Haitian government and the UN to define the respective roles in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and created international partnerships to provide needed assets such as transportation, logistics, medical, and rule of law expertise. With this and other support from the United States, Brazil, and others, MINUSTAH recovered and today continues to play a critical role, including by securing the logistical routes to enable an effective response to the cholera crisis and supporting the Haitian National Police as they work to uphold the rule of law in Haiti.

Humanitarian organizations on the ground in Haiti were severely affected by the earthquake in terms of loss of capacities, resources and staff that seriously undermined their ability to respond effectively and swiftly. UN humanitarian agencies nonetheless moved quickly to establish a coordinated humanitarian response after the earthquake. The UN launched an interim flash appeal for emergency relief funding on January 15, and followed up with a $1.5 billion revised appeal on February 18. The U.S. Government was by far the largest bilateral donor to the 2010 UN appeal, providing over $242 million in response. Over the course of 2010, UN relief effort provided life-saving support to millions, including:

In December 2010, the UN launched the 2011 Consolidated Appeal for Haiti, requesting approximately $907 million to provide ongoing humanitarian and early recovery assistance. Priorities for the 2011 UN humanitarian response will include supporting the Government of Haiti’s efforts to treat and prevent cholera, creating durable conditions for many of the estimated one million who still reside in camps and spontaneous settlements to return and reintegrate into their communities, enhancing disaster preparedness and contingency planning, and building government and local community capacity to ensure access to basic social services.

Following the cholera outbreak, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) led the UN health cluster's efforts in the overall cholera response. PAHO ensures that adequate medical supplies are on hand, working with MINUSTAH, World Food Program and other partners to distribute life-saving supplies to a network of cholera treatment centers, treatment units, and oral rehydration points established across the country. PAHO has trained over 500 health workers in cholera case management and has worked with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to improve surveillance and reporting of cholera cases and fatalities. PAHO, MINUSTAH, and others continue to assess and evaluate the cholera situation and measures to manage it.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, the Government of Haiti convened approximately 250 local and international experts to conduct a post-disaster needs assessment, which mapped and quantified the colossal destruction that Haiti’s social, economic, and administrative structures had suffered. The study estimated that overall damage and losses totaled approximately $7.9 billion, which amounted to 120% of the country’s GDP in 2009. On the basis of the assessment, the Government of Haiti produced an “Action Plan for National Recovery and Development” that concentrated on four areas: 1) territorial rebuilding (estimated cost: $1.5 billion), 2) economic rebuilding (estimated cost: $.8 billion), 3) social rebuilding (estimated cost: $1.6 billion), and 4) institutional rebuilding (estimated cost: $1.1 billion). This analysis placed the country’s assistance needs at an estimated $3.86 billion in the eighteen months following the earthquake. At a UN-sponsored conference on March 31, 2010, more than 140 countries and international organizations pledged a total of $5.3 billion towards Haiti’s recovery. Total assistance pledges, including those that stretch beyond 2011, have since risen to more than $10 billion.

The Government of Haiti followed up with important steps to facilitate donor coordination for its recovery and development.

Interim Haiti Recovery Commission

Haiti Reconstruction Fund:

In July, the Treasury Department announced that the United States, the International Financial Institutions (IFIs), and other donors together reached the goal of eliminating the total debt stock of $800 million that Haiti owed to the IFIs at the time of the January earthquake. This represented one of the fastest multilateral debt reductions in history. As part of this effort, the U.S. Government disbursed $212 million of new money to provide Inter-American Development Bank and International Fund for Agricultural Development debt relief, freeing up money for the Government of Haiti to use to meet their highest and most urgent priorities.


The U.S. Government had been working on a comprehensive strategy to support Haiti since March 2009. The earthquake necessitated careful review and revisions to meet the needs of the post-earthquake nation. In close coordination with the Government of Haiti and other donors, the State Department and USAID led the planning and development of a whole-of-government comprehensive strategy to support Haiti’s long-term reconstruction.

The strategy is built upon the principle of sustainability. The strategy seeks not only the benefits to individuals generated by human development and economic growth, but also the overall sustainability and development of a Haitian state and society. A crucial part of the strategy therefore is for the Government of Haiti to be fully capable of providing the services expected of the public sector and the infrastructure needed by the private sector. Toward this rebuilding of Haiti's capacity in both public and private spheres, a guiding principle of U.S. assistance to Haiti is that the recovery process be Haitian-led. Monitoring of projects and evaluation of results hold the implementers of the strategy accountable to the Haitian people and the American people.

The strategy identifies four priority pillars of U.S. investment – areas upon which Haiti’s reconstruction, sustainable development, economic growth, and long-term stability depend. These pillars are:

The strategy focuses on three regional development corridors. To promote the Government of Haiti’s goal of decentralization, U.S. Government assistance will focus on the greater Port-au-Prince area, the corridor between Port-au-Prince and St. Marc, and in the north around Cap Haitien.

The earthquake in Haiti called for an urgent international response in the short term and a long-term commitment to help put that country on a more solid and sustainable foundation for the future. Efforts by the U.S. Government have operated within both time frames. The United States has provided more than $1.1 billion in humanitarian assistance to address most pressing needs, many of which extended beyond the four priority pillars. Additionally, the U.S. Government has provided $406 million from existing appropriations to lay the groundwork for long-term reconstruction efforts.

The U.S. Government also identified longer-term goals and planned for the necessary resources. Of the $5.3 billion pledged at the March 31 donors’ conference, the United States pledged $1.15 billion in new assistance through 2011 toward Haiti’s reconstruction. In March 2010, the Obama Administration submitted a Supplemental Budget Request seeking additional funds for Haiti. In May Congress appropriated $1.75 billion in supplemental funding for State, USAID, and Treasury for recovery and reconstruction activities in that country. Prudent planning is crucial to achieve maximum impact and ensure accountability. As of January 12, 2011, the U.S. Government will have spent an estimated $332 million of the supplemental reconstruction funding.


The earthquake created immediate and long-term needs in each of the four pillars of investment, and generated significant challenges in addressing these needs.

Pillar I: Infrastructure and Energy

The Need

The Response



Land tenure/ownership

Short-Term Jobs

Industrial parks


Pillar II: Food and Economic Security

The Need

The Response


Pillar III: Health and Other Basic Services

The Need

The Response



Pillar IV: Governance and Rule of law

The Need

The Response


Rule of Law



January 12, 2010 will live in the world’s memory as a day of national calamity for Haiti. Twelve months after that disaster, there has been demonstrable progress in responding to immediate humanitarian needs, and in beginning the long process of rebuilding the country on a solid and sustainable foundation. Success in putting Haiti on the path to a better future depends on long-term engagement. That is the commitment the United States has made, and the American people, through their outpouring of generosity, have demonstrated their unequivocal support for Haiti.

[This is a mobile copy of Haiti: One Year Later]