Bill Clinton in Haiti.

Bill Clinton in Haiti in October 2009 on a trip to encourage investment there. (Ramon Espinosa / AP Photo)

By Frank James

Former President Bill Clinton told All Things Considered host Melissa Block Wednesday that what was needed most urgently was cash to buy the medical supplies, water and other essentials needed to sustain the Haitian people during this early phase of the recovery.

Clinton, the United Nations' special envoy to Haiti, also said the UN so far only knows for sure of a few survivors from the five-story Montana Hotel it had turned into its headquarters. More than 200 UN workers would have been in the building at the time of the earthquake, according to reports.

Speaking from his office at the UN, the former president said:

CLINTON: "We know we've got at least ten survivors of the headquarters collapse, people who were taken out alive and are now getting medical care. We know that seven of the Minustah people were injured. We know there are going to be some fatalities, a considerable number. We just don't know how many yet cause we haven't gotten through all the rubble.
What we need now is cash to buy water, food, shelter and first-aid supplies. That's what we need. And we need that the next week over and above everything else. They are not able yet to coordinate physical supplies and redirect bodies. So I just want to urge people to donate directly to the agencies...

Clinton said he hadn't yet talked with the Haiti's top officials:

CLINTON: Prime Minister Bellerive called us twice yesterday. Paul Farmer (the UN's deputy envoy) and I were laughing because amid all this tragedy it was almost comical. He was trying to reach out and his coverage was interrupted. So I think we'll be able to talk to him tonight. I notice he was able to get through to CNN and do an interview. I did not bother President Preval because the presidential was damaged and once I realized that he and Mrs. Preval were safe, we left them alone.
But they have, as you know, injured members of parliament. We don't yet know what the final toll is from the collapse of the parliament building.

The former president said he remained confident in Haiti's future. Since being named the UN special envoy to Haiti, Clinton has been focused developing the nation that's the poorest in teh Western Hemisphere.

We need first aid supplies, shelter food and water. And then within, I'd say, two weeks we'll be up and going on recovery efforts and reimplementing the plan that I went down there to implement in the first place. We're going to do this. And we're going to do it right. We're not going to give up because of this problem. This simply re-emphasizes the need to build Haiti back in a stronger better position.
It's a terrible economic setback. But depending on how the world responds to it, and the Haitian people and the Haitian government respond to it, it might be a spiritual regeneration. This could intensify the determination of the people of Haiti to build their capital city back so that its buildings are more resistant to earthquakes, to hurricanes and are more energy efficient, to put more people to work in the rebuilding of the country...
Every tragedy life shapes the future depending on how you respond to it. And I have been extremely impressed by what I have seen here, by the Haitian delegation here with whom I work with...

Michelle asked Clinton about his personal ties to Haiti. Clinton recalled visiting Haiti with his wife Hillary, the secretary of state, 35 years ago in 1975 and sitting with her in the cathedral where they both admired its beauty.

It's very personal to me. People all over the world can identify with this on a very human level...

Clinton went on to marvel at the extent of the help being offered the Haitians.

... We've even gotten search and rescue teams from China. We've got an offer of very valuable helicopters, we need more helicopters, we've got some very big ones from Russia.

Updated at 7:10 pm to add information for making donations --

Clinton said those wanting to make donations can send them directly to www.clintonfoundation.org/haitirelief/ or, using their mobile phones, text "HAITI" to 20222. He said $10 will be donated to the relief efforts and charged to your bill.

categories: Accidents and Disasters

6:09 - January 13, 2010