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By Yves-Richard Blanc

The close proximity of Haiti to the southern shores of the United States makes it easy to understand why the United States commands 40 percent of the Haitian import market. Haiti is a valuable partner in trade with the United States and a valuable ally to maintain stability in our hemisphere and the Caribbean region.

In 2010 when the earthquake devastated the small island nation, 220,000 people died and 130,000 homes were destroyed. The infrastructure for clean water, electricity and health was severely damaged.

Immediately after the earthquake the world community stepped in and pledged support in the form of economic and social help to rebuild the country. But despite the early efforts, cholera took hold and was quickly killing 29,000 residents of Haiti a month. Hurricane Tomas in late 2010 further undermined efforts, and what was already a long road became even longer.

Four years later things are starting to look up, particularly in the urban centers in Haiti. Ninety percent of the population that was housed in tent camps has returned to permanent housing. Schools have reopened and the infrastructure is being rebuilt to provide electricity and clean water.

But there is still a very long way to go, particularly in the rural communities that have been virtually untouched by the international outreach efforts. They have no access to clean water, electricity or health care.

The daily or weekly updates may have faded from our news media, but the need has not been met yet in Haiti.

I have made numerous trips back to the country of my birth to work with the rural population. We have delivered medical services, assisted communities in finding economic development opportunities and provided resources for infrastructure upgrades. My work with the Foundation for Health and Hope in Haiti and NOAH NY has shown me how the dedication of a group of American professionals – doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers, financial planners and students – can make a dramatic impact in the lives of rural Haitians and their small villages.

I am now spearheading an effort that will allow hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices in Western New York to support the ongoing efforts to rebuild Haiti. We are gathering surplus supplies, gently used hand-held equipment and un-expired surplus medicines to take to Haiti. This effort helps keep these items out of landfills and into the hands of professionals that can use them to heal the rural population.

I ask the City of Good Neighbors to not forget the needs of their neighbors to the south. Haitians have suffered much. Progress is slow, but there is still hope for Haiti.

Yves-Richard Blanc was born in Haiti and is now a U.S. citizen and owner of Renovatio Medical and Surgical Supplies in Buffalo.