WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

17 Mar 2017 | Commentary

The United States Should Maintain a Special State Department Office on Haiti

Between the myriad of natural and and man-made disasters that have wracked Haiti over the last decade—from the devastating 2010 earthquake and last year’s Hurricane Matthew, to repeated political crises—it is clear that Haiti needs U.S. assistance. A bipartisan group of lawmakers knows this, and has spoken out in favor of maintaining an independent State Department office dedicated to helping alleviate the country’s humanitarian needs.

On March 13, this group of 12 Members of Congress (Republicans and Democrats alike) sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, asking him not to close the Office of the Special Coordinator for Haiti, established in the wake of the 2010 earthquake. Since then it has carried out extraordinary work. As the lawmakers note, the office “has played a crucial role in coordinating $4.6 billion in humanitarian and post-reconstruction relief, supported the peaceful transition of power in Haiti, and served as a trusted liaison to Congress.”

Having witnessed the deep, lasting humanitarian need on the ground in Haiti, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) also supports maintaining this office. As Senior Associate Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli has noted, the United States has a vital role to play in providing humanitarian assistance, rebuilding the Haitian economy and infrastructure, addressing the cholera epidemic, and strengthening state institutions so they can respond to their citizens’ needs.