Obama Pledges Continued Commitment to Haiti
By Carol L. Bowers
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2010 President Barack Obama today pledged America’s continued commitment to the government and people of Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and in recovery efforts.
Speaking from the White House, the president singled out the men and women in uniform who “have moved so swiftly” to help Haitians and thanked troops and search and rescue teams.
“I want you to know that you demonstrate the courage and decency of the American people, and we are extraordinarily proud of you,” Obama said.
With the arrival of the USS Carl Vinson in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, Obama said, a distribution plan for food, water and medical aid is being developed, and will be coordinated among the United States, the government of Haiti, the United Nations and other international partners and aid organizations.
The Carl Vinson’s helicopters “will be critical in delivering assistance in the days to come,” he said, noting that crews are going to distribute badly needed water, food and other life-saving supplies to priority areas in Port-au-Prince.
Setting up distribution points for food, water and medical supplies and aid so they can be disbursed in a safe, orderly and effective fashion will take time, Obama said. “But I want the people of Haiti to know that we will do what it takes to save lives and to help them get back on their feet,” he added.
Obama said he had talked this morning with Haitian President Rene Preval and expressed his deepest condolences for the people of Haiti.
“Like so many Haitians, President Preval himself has lost his home, and his government is working under extraordinarily difficult conditions,” Obama said. “Many communications are down … and many people remain unaccounted for. The scale of devastation is extraordinary … and the losses are heartbreaking.”
Obama said that during the conversation, he “pledged America’s continued commitment to the government and people of Haiti, in the immediate effort to save lives and deliver relief and in the long-term effort to rebuild.”
At present, communications are down, the port is closed, roads are damaged and food and water scarce, Obama said. Rescue efforts continue, and Obama praised search and rescue teams from Florida, Virginia and California who have saved American and Haitian lives in recent days.
Meanwhile, resources are continuing to move to Haiti from the United States, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, France, Colombia and the Dominican Republic and others, Obama said. The president is scheduled to meet tomorrow with former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to discuss ways to enlist the American people in recovery and rebuilding efforts going forward.
“The entire world stands with the government and people of Haiti. For in Haiti’s devastation, we all see the common humanity that we share,” Obama said.
However, America has a particular responsibility to render aid because the nation “has a unique capacity to reach out broadly and to deliver assistance that can save lives,” Obama said.
“That responsibility obviously is magnified when the devastation that’s been suffered is so near to us,” he added.