First Lady Michelle Obama met Tuesday with representatives of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, including International Medical Corps, to thank them for their work in Haiti following the devastating January 12 earthquake. The meeting also included Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joseph Biden.
“It was a tremendous privilege to be there and hear firsthand Mrs. Obama express the United States’ commitment to Haiti,” said Dina Prior, who heads International Medical Corps’ operations in Haiti.“There are so many needs ongoing here, particularly with the looming rain and hurricane seasons, and it is reassuring to know that Haiti and its people will not be forgotten.”
Mrs. Biden also expressed her thanks, noting that relief workers have risked – and some lost – their lives in providing assistance to Haiti. The event was part of an all-day tour of the destroyed Haitian capital that included a meeting with President Rene Preval, a helicopter tour of Port-au-Prince, and a school visit.
The First Lady’s high-profile visit comes at a time when Haiti’s rainy season is just beginning. The U.N. and NGOs, including International Medical Corps, are working to relocate people from camps that could be susceptible to landslides and flash flooding, and to prepare for the health issues, including malaria, typhoid, and malnutrition, that could result.
“The pledge of continued assistance to Haiti is both vital and reassuring to organizations working here,” said Prior. “We need to build Haiti’s local capacity so that we all can face the challenges ahead, start the process of repairing what was destroyed, and create a health infrastructure that is better and stronger than before.”
On the ground in Haiti just 22 hours after the earthquake, International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response draws on 25 years experience in emergency settings, including last September’s earthquake in Sumatra, Indonesia, the massive 2005 earthquake in Pakistan and the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.