Taking action for Haiti
January 10, 2011 by Roxanne Paisible
|The IRC’s Roxanne Paisible (left) with Oveline Mercuix, an IRC child and youth protection expert in Haiti. Photo: IRC|
As a Haitian-American, I was deeply moved by the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. After hearing eyewitness accounts from my relatives in Haiti and seeing the jarring images of fellow Haitians who lost their lives, I felt compelled to take action. At the time of the earthquake, I was living in South Florida and working on social issues at the local and state levels. Building on my previous advocacy work, I was hired by the International Rescue Committee to serve as the Haiti advocacy officer based in Washington, D.C.
The IRC’s advocacy work began immediately after the earthquake when board members and overseers spoke out in support of the U.S. government granting temporary protected status to Haitians living in the United States. IRC staff also advised executive branch and Congressional contacts, including Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), on ways to protect orphaned and separated children. More recently, I was able to work collaboratively with other aid agencies to advocate for the inclusion of displaced Haitians and civil society groups at all stages of the reconstruction process. In our meetings with government officials and in briefings for the public, we highlighted the protection needs and rights of vulnerable groups. In the year ahead, the IRC will continue to bring attention to the needs of displaced Haitians and work to ensure that they are not forgotten.
Two hundred years ago, when slaves led the revolt that created Haiti, human rights principles were a fundamental part of their struggle. Today, respect for these rights should be integrated into aid programs and our efforts should aim to benefit all Haitians, irrespective of their social and economic status.
At the one year mark of the Haiti earthquake, the IRC is reaffirming our commitment to help Haitians recover. We will continue to bolster our advocacy efforts to help Haiti build back better and strive towards long-term sustainable development.
A new IRC report, released today, is the latest advocacy tool we are using to ensure that the voices of Haitians -- especially the most vulnerable: displaced children and women -- are heard. The report highlights the work of the IRC’s Haitian and international staff in the areas hit hardest by the earthquake, and features the personal stories of Haitians and the challenges they continue to struggle to overcome. One year on, it's clear the work of the international community in Haiti is far from done.