The power of Haiti's heritage and its people is tremendous. For America, Haiti has held, and continues to hold, a unique and rich role in African-American history. Before and since the earthquake in 2010, Haiti has faced great challenges -- ones they are working to confront and to lead the international community in helping them solve. The U.S. government -- and the American people -- has had the privilege of being a steadfast partner in Haiti's efforts. As we approach the second anniversary of the 2010 earthquake, it is important to remember those who lost so much; and, to honor Haitians' unrelenting commitment to realize a more prosperous and stable nation by shining a light on some of the progress toward the great future they seek.
There is so much work still to be done -- by the government and people of Haiti, international partners, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Too often when things begin heading in the right direction, commitments wane and past habits reemerge. We must not let that happen. On the part of the United States, we know in Haiti we have not always measured success by whether the lives of Haitians visibly improved. And, we are continuing to take steps to do better, implementing the principles President Obama set out for effective development in his administration: coordinating with other stakeholders, working closely with the Government of Haiti and following their lead, and holding ourselves accountable through rigorous monitoring of results. We are focused on improving our impact further -- from decreasing the time it takes to contract for critical needs and increasing the number of contracts we award through Haitian entities and local partners, to widening the scope and enhancing the effectiveness of our work to build Haitian capacity, to speeding the time it takes for our investments to get on the ground and have an impact.
In the coming days there will be stories about Haiti that focus on what still must be done -- like speeding the progress of donors' deployment of assistance, finding homes for the 500,000 people who still live in camps, remaining vigilant to dampen the impact of cholera, and creating more jobs, investment and economic growth. We agree. But we also think it is important to recognize the successes that are too seldom discussed or celebrated -- particularly given how great Haiti's needs were even before the earthquake. And Haiti has made progress. So I wanted to take a moment to share some of those successes.
Ten Things You May Not Know About Haiti Today
1. Almost two-thirds of the estimated 1.5 million Haitians living in tent shelters after the January 2010 earthquake have left camps, many returning to houses that have undergone structural improvements or moving into temporary shelters and permanent homes.
The U.S. government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has completed more than 28,500 temporary shelters, housing approximately 143,000 people. The U.S. government has also funded repairs to more than 6,000 "yellow" structures -- those that were deemed structurally safe if repairs are made. Today, more than 40,000 have returned to those homes.
2. Over half of the estimated 10 million cubic meters of rubble created by the earthquake has been removed -- almost 50 percent of which was removed through efforts of the U.S. government.
3. In 2011, Haitians went to the polls and elected a new President, Michel Martelly, to succeed Rene Preval. This election marked the first democratic transfer of power from one democratically elected government leader to a member of the opposition.
4. For the first time in more than 25 years, Haiti is poised to have all three branches -- executive, legislative and judiciary -- of government in place. President Martelly has appointed three members of the Supreme Court, including the Court's president -- a position that was vacant for six years and is central to the judiciary's oversight body.
5. The Haitian Ministry of Health, supported by the international community including USG through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and USAID, led the international community's response to prevent and treat cholera -- bringing the case mortality rate below the international standard of one percent.
6. According to the UN Special Envoy for Haiti's website, of the 4.5 billion pledged for Haiti for 2010-2011, approximately 2.4 billion had been spent by December 2011. In October, the legislative mandate for the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) ended. During its tenure, the Commission approved 89 projects across 8 sectors valued at more than 3 billion dollars. Even in the absence of a legislatively mandated coordination mechanism, the 12 largest donors continue to leverage the relationships built through the IHRC to coordinate among themselves and work with the Government of Haiti through resident representatives.
7. The Government of Haiti, with the support of stakeholders, including the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), is providing schooling to 260,000 elementary students for a total of 750,000 elementary students enrolled this school year.
8. The Government of Haiti is overhauling its state-owned electricity company, Electricite D'Haiti (EDH), which provides electricity to just 12 percent of the population and requires more than 100 million a year in government subsidy to operate. The Government of Haiti has appointed new Haitian leadership and an internationally respected turnaround management team funded by the U.S. government. In the first three months, the new management has helped the utility company improve its operations, its transparency and its fiscal efficiency, identifying more than 1.6 million in monthly savings. The new management will not only improve and expand services, but also help reduce the substantial government subsidy for EDH's operations, freeing these resources up for other critical needs.
9. The U.S. government is doing development differently in Haiti, consistent with the principles of the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development and its focus on catalyzing economic growth:
Caracol Industrial Park: In November, President Martelly, President Clinton, and Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Moreno and more than a 1,000 members of the local community took part in an official ceremony laying the Park's foundation, on track for its March opening. The speed and efficiency of implementation rivals the fast-moving construction schedules of industrial projects across the Americas, Europe and Asia. The 250-hectare Caracol Industrial Park in northern Haiti is a 300 million public-private partnership supported by increased U.S. trade preferences under the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act and the coordination mechanisms created by the IHRC. The USG helped convene the GOH, the IDB and Korea's largest apparel manufacturer, Sae-A, the Park's anchor tenant. Sae-A has committed to create 20,000 direct jobs and invest 78 million over six years, one of the largest investments in Haiti's modern history. With the arrival of other tenants, the Park has the potential to create 65,000 direct jobs, with additional opportunities expected for vendors, repair shops, farmers and other small businesses. USG investments will provide for electrification, new housing, and port facilities. IDB investments will provide for the construction of the park facilities and roads. The GOH is contributing the land and managing the project top to bottom with a team of Haitian professionals.
Agriculture: Through USG investments in agriculture and food security, more than 9,700 farmers have benefited from improved seeds, fertilizer, technologies, and techniques. This has resulted in a 64 percent increase in rice yields, a 338 percent increase in corn yields, a 97 percent increase in bean crop yields and a 21 percent increase in plantain yields for these farmers. As a result of a full value chain approach, incomes are up over 50 percent for 8,750 small farmers.
10. Haiti is experiencing continued and increasing international investment interest. A multi-day conference on business development opportunities in Haiti drew around 1,000 business leaders from the private sector as well as officials from 29 countries spanning the Americas, Asia and Europe. Marriot and Digicel announced the construction of a new 45 million Marriot hotel in Port-Au-Prince, with the construction by several developers of more than 750 hotel rooms in the pipeline -- representing the largest growth in the industry for the Caribbean region, which includes popular tourist destinations in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
When I first started working in Haiti, someone steeped in working there said to me, "you cannot chase needs in Haiti because Haiti's needs are too great. You must chase opportunities." I urge everyone to continue to chase opportunities in Haiti -- to stay committed. In the days and weeks after the earthquake, more than half of all Americans gave money to help make a difference in Haiti's future. I encourage you to go back to the organization you supported -- you will see the difference you helped make -- and can continue to make. Together we can help Haitians achieve the future they deserve.
Editor's Note: This entry appeared first on the Huffington Post.