Following the recent announcement that Chilean President will join forces with the UN Women’s Fund (UNIFEM) to advocate for the women of Haiti after the devastating earthquake, Michelle Bachelet yesterday traveled to the devastated island, where she expressed her firm commitment to let the world hear the voices of Haiti’s women and children, now more vulnerable than ever following the magnitude-7.0 earthquake on Jan. 12 that claimed 217,000 lives. “They can count on me. I will always work for the women of Haiti,” Bachelet said at a meeting with women’s organizations in Port-au-Prince, whose representatives told her some of their needs: decent dwellings, education, disaster warnings and prevention, and greater economic possibilities, since 47 percent of them are heads of families.
The president met in Haiti with President René Préval and members of his Cabinet, from whom she learned details about the country’s reconstruction plans following the earthquake.
The schedule of her 7-hour trip included a helicopter flight over the devastated Haitian capital and a visit to an infants’ center in the southern town of Aquin, as well as a meeting with the Chilean troops taking part in the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or Minustah. “Haiti’s reconstruction will be faster if women take part” in the process, Bachelet said after listening to Women’s Rights Minister Marjory Michel address the chief necessities of women, who make up 52 percent of the population. The meeting had an emotional ending when the representatives of the different women’s rights organizations sang Bachelet a farewell song in Haitian Creole.
With regard to Haiti’s reconstruction, after her meeting with President Préval, Bachelet called for speed in funding from the international community to create employment in this country. At a press conference she recalled the existing cooperation between her country and Haiti, and said that Chile will continue working on child-schooling and sustainable-agriculture programs. She also cited the lack of safe housing for almost a million people living in the streets, as well as the urgent need to restart the school year.
Préval stressed the maximum urgency required in providing shelter for those left homeless and said that the coming rainy season will make the situation even worse. He consequently called for “a great coalition of endeavors” to make it possible to solve this problem.