First Lady: Still 'So Much to Do' in Haiti

Michelle Obama says her visit comes as global attention starts to wane.

ByABC News
April 12, 2010, 5:54 PM

WASHINGTON, April 13, 2010— -- Michelle Obama said it was evident in her short visit to Haiti today that there is still "so much to do" to get the country back on its feet after January's devastating earthquake.

Obama, on the first stop of her first solo trip out of the United States as first lady, said it was important to come now because Haiti has reached a point when "the relief efforts are under way but the attention of the world starts to wane a bit."

"In order for Haiti to get back to where it needs to be, it's going to take the world continuing to invest, to partner, to show that sense of compassion," she said at the United Nations logistics center in Port-au-Prince.

The first lady said the relief efforts in Haiti have been more than just a U.S. effort, but a global effort.

"America has been a leader, but it has not been the only leader, by any close margin," she said.

Asked if she felt the aid money that Americans have contributed is actually reaching the Haitian people, Obama said yes.

"By all accounts, the Haitian people are very happy with the relief efforts," the first lady said. "Still, accountability is key. And, you know, I know that the governments are going to continue to work together.

"But I think that my sense is the Haitian people feel a deep appreciation for what the world has done, that's for sure," she said.

Obama arrived in Haiti today with little fanfare for a surprise visit aimed at highlighting the United States' continued commitment to Haiti.

The stop on her way to Mexico came a day after Haitians observed the three-month anniversary of the magnitude-7.0 earthquake that devastated their capital city and parts of surrounding communities.

"It's powerful. The devastation is definitely powerful," Obama said of her first impressions of the country.

Obama was joined in Haiti by Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden. The two landed in Port-au-Prince late this morning and took a helicopter tour of the city, where hundreds of thousands are homeless, living in tents and under tarps.

After meeting with President Renee Preval and his wife, Obama and Biden visited the downtown Plas Timoun, or Children's Place, a program where children can work on art projects as part of a post-quake therapy program.

About 900 children ages 6 to 10 take part each day in the program, which was set up by Haitian first lady Elisabeth Debrosse, Haitian graphic artist and painter Philippe Dodard and a group of psychologists, educators and politicians shortly after the earthquake.

The program is geared to children living in tent cities, and, in addition to the art projects, which take place in buses, it provides them access to mental health services, sports activities, food and water.