Following their trip to Haiti earlier this month, U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have sent a letter to U.S. Department of State Secretary Hillary Clinton, reiterating their concern for and commitment to Haiti's children. In the letter, Sens. Landrieu and Gillibrand reported key findings from their trip, and emphasized the need for the U.S. to focus its rebuilding aid on strengthening families and communities, with a particular emphasis on education, as a way to better protect Haiti's children.
"Children and families must not be overlooked in the U.S. reconstruction efforts," the Senators wrote. "At the Donors Conference on March 31st, the U.S. indicated that it will focus its funding and efforts on four pillars: Security, Health, Energy and Agriculture. While we recognize the need for the U.S. to focus on specific sectors, it is our understanding that these pillars were identified prior to the earthquake in a strategic plan that the Department of State developed in coordination with the Preval Administration. This pre-earthquake determination of United States' priorities disregards some of the most important issues that have come to light in the wake of the earthquake-namely, that Haiti's children account for over 50% of the population; there were over 300,000 children living without family in Haiti prior to the earthquake; about 1.26 million children were impacted by the earthquake, exacerbating child separation and vulnerability; social support services for families are essentially nonexistent; and the conditions of orphanages and many schools in Haiti are deplorable and in disrepair."
The Senators also urged Secretary Clinton to make it a U.S. priority to invest in Haiti's 4.5 million children by providing free, quality schools throughout the country. Establishing better community schools, especially in rural areas, will help in Haitians choosing to live outside Port-Au-Prince. This will assist in decentralizing the overpopulated capital, which is a high priority for the Haitian government.
"As you may be aware, over half of school aged children were not in school prior to the earthquake, and 80% of the primary schools in Haiti are non-public or private," the Senators wrote. "Some experts estimate that poor families spend up to 40% of their annual income on education. Unfortunately, there is no correlation between the quality of schools and the cost to the families. Nonetheless, with U.S. leadership during the reconstruction, public schools can become the cornerstone for communities by providing wrap-around services for children and adults and much needed family support services (health clinics, literacy, vocational training, and nutritional support). We strongly urge you to consider adding education and rebuilding schools as the 5th pillar for the U.S.' efforts in Haiti in coordination with our global partners and the Government of Haiti."
For the full text of the letter, please visit: http://landrieu.senate.gov/mediacenter/upload/10.04.23_Clinton_letter.pdf