For U.S. Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the devastating situation in Haiti feels personal. More than a week after the island nation experienced a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that has reportedly claimed the lives of more than 2,200, the Haitian-American political organizer and activist describes the turmoil in the Caribbean country as “heart wrenching.”
“I think many people in the community feel that the country can't catch a break,” says Jean-Pierre. “But at the same time, it is a country with such rich, rich history and a rich culture that we are incredibly proud of.”
Throughout history, the people of Haiti have often been described as resilient. From a revolution in the late 1700’s through today’s ongoing political unrest and destruction, the country has rallied to regain its footing during this trying time. America is pitching in with necessary aid. Following reports of the devastating earthquake, President Biden took immediate action, naming USAID administrator Samantha Power as the senior U.S. official to coordinate the effort. Soon after, the disaster assistance response team (DART) was deployed to Haiti—a 65 person search and rescue squad accompanied by search and rescue canines as well as 52,000 pounds of tools and equipment.
“It's an immediate priority for the US to respond to the earthquakes that have affected Haiti and continue to support the Haitian authorities efforts to recover and rebuild in the aftermath of the earthquake,” says Jean-Pierre.
An initial $100,000 has also been given to the American Red Cross to support emergency logistics and shelter assistance. The administration is working closely with the Haitian government at the US Embassy in Haiti, and also humanitarian organizations to make sure that the Haitian people are getting the help that they need in the upcoming weeks and months.
Though the recovery efforts remain a focal point for the Biden Administration, during a press call last week, a spokesperson with the Administration noted that the United States remains a close partner and friend of Haiti, and is also providing security, development, governance and health. The goal is to support Haiti in its efforts to chart a path toward long lasting peace, stability and prosperity for all Haitians. Following the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, that again includes working closely with Haiti’s interim government to assist with the investigation into the assassination.
The U.S. is supporting efforts to strengthen the security and democratic institutions and encourage dialogue with civil society actors. Pierre calls the approach a “whole of government effort,” adding that the Coast Guard and Marines are working closely with the USAID and the Secretary of Defense to combat what is being considered an unstable government.
“We support a Haitian led process to develop an electoral timeline to organize elections as soon as they are feasible,” says Jean-Pierre. “But we understand with this earthquake and the aftermath of this earthquake, it's going to take some time.”
Though Haiti has been dealt a frustrating blow—first an assassination followed by a fatal earthquake—Jean-Pierre is encouraged by the beautiful people and beautiful spirit of the country. “I know that we're going to get through this and on to the other side.”