Haiti's U.S. Ambassador Raymond Alcide Joseph and state Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando
Haiti’s ambassador to the United States Raymond Alcide Joseph made an impassioned plea for help from the U.S. government at a press conference with black legislators in the Capitol today.
“We need tents. Tents to house the people because there are more than a million of them displaced. Right now they have make-shift tents with sheets and things like that. But unless we have those tents within the next six to eight weeks we’ll be in deep trouble because that’s when the rainy season starts,” Joseph said at a press conference in the office of Sen. Gary Siplin, head of the legislature’s black caucus. “So I am asking, I cannot plead too much, please help us get as many tents as possible.”
More than 1 million Haitians have been displaced by the devastating earthquake that razed the island nation’s capital Port-au-Prince last month, leaving more than 200,000 dead and as many injured.
Venezuela has sent 30,000 tents and an unnamed Caribbean nation has pledged another 10,000, Joseph said. But that’s far fewer than the 200,000 Haitian President Rene Preval is pleading for before the onset of the rainy season.
Joseph described his visit to Port-au-Prince Friday with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders.
“I’m not a very emotional person, but I cried. I had cried before, in private. But this time I cried in public. The devastation cannot be explained,” the soft-spoken founder of a Haitian independent newspaper, now run by his brother, Joseph said.
Joseph also asked the U.S. and Canada to make it easier for Haitian Americans living in those countries to return to Haiti to help with the nation’s recovery.
“We have a wealth of resources of Haitian Americans in this country and in Canada who want to give some of their time, some of their expertise to Haiti. But so far their getting there has been stymied,” Joseph said.
The first wave of volunteers assisted the military rescue efforts, Joseph said.
More than 83 percent of Haitian-born professionals have left the country, most of the living now in the United States, Canada and France.
Joseph said those workers need – and want – to return to their native land to help with recovery.
Joseph will address lawmakers at 5 p.m. today as part of the legislative black caucus’ Black History Month celebration.
He said he came to Florida as a reminder of President Barack Obama’s pledge that the United States would be with Haiti for the long haul.
“This is part of why I’m here. For the long haul. I want the story to continue. Because rebuilding Haiti is not going to be one week, two months, a year. It’s going to take quite a few years and I want you to be with us. That’s why I’m here,” Joseph said.