Former President Clinton On Haitian Quake

Melissa Block talks to former President Bill Clinton, who is also the United Nations' special envoy to Haiti. He joins us from his office at the United Nations in New York.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And now to former President Bill Clinton, who was named U.N. special envoy for Haiti last year. He joins us from his U.N. office in New York. President Clinton, welcome to the program.

President BILL CLINTON: Thank you, Melissa.

BLOCK: And can you let us know any direct information that you've been getting on the fate of U.N. staff in Haiti, including U.N. peacekeepers or the chief of mission?

Pres. CLINTON: Well, we have - we know we've got at least 10 survivors of the headquarters collapse, people that 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 because we haven't gone through all the rubble. But, you know, the U.N. is down there working with the $10 million in emergency relief's been set aside by the U.N. They've got 86 metric tons of food prepositioned in El Salvador to bring in.

They're working on medical facilities with the World Health Organization and working with the United States to bring in more helicopters and more supplies and C-130 transport planes. I think the United States has had a very good response of what the president said, what the secretary of State and the aid directors said and the Defense Department. We're doing everything we can.

And the world community, as always, wants to respond, and people have a very generous attitude. One of the things that I've tried to do after extensive consultation with our U.N. staff is to tell people that there will come a time when we do need - we'll need volunteers, we'll need supplies, we'll need all kinds of things. But right now we are digging through rubble. There are - last night in Port-au-Prince, the streets were littered with people who were wounded and people who had died.

So, what we need now is cash to buy water, food, shelter and first-aid supplies. And we'll need that for at least the next week over and above everything else. They are not able yet to coordinate physical supplies and redirect other bodies and everything. So, I just want to urge people to donate directly to the agencies. Or if they want me to give it to them, they can send it to clintonfoundation.org/haitiearthquake, or we have a mobile giving program where you can send a text message to 20222. That's 20222, and $10 will go to the relief efforts. But believe me, every $10 will count. That's a lot of first-aid supplies. That's a lot of clean water.

BLOCK: President Clinton, have you been able to talk with the Haitian President, Rene Preval, or the prime minister to get a sense of the disaster?

Pres. CLINTON: No. He called us twice. Prime Minister Bellerive called us twice yesterday. Then his coverage was interrupted. So I think we'll be able to talk to him tonight. I noticed he was able to get through to CNN and do an interview. I did not bother President Preval because the presidential palace was damaged. And once I realized that he and Ms. 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 there is on the damage to the parliament building.

And I just want everybody to realize, though, that for the next somewhere between 72 hours and one week, we are going to be uncovering debris to get people out, whether they're alive or whether they have perished. And we're going to have a very large number of people with no place to spend the night. So, we're figuring that out, and they all need clean water and food. The water supplies have been wrecked. We've got to bring the food. And we have a drastic shortage of basic first-aid equipment. We have people who have been badly mangled in this earthquake, and people who have sustained injuries that are not life threatening, but it caused them the loss of a lot of blood. We need first-aid supplies, shelter, food and water.

And then within, I'd say, two weeks we'll be up and going again on the recovery efforts and re-implementing 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. And we're not going to give up because of this problem. This simply reemphasizes the need to build Haiti back in a stronger, better position.

BLOCK: Well, let me ask you about that long-term plan. You told the Security Council a few months ago that you were very optimistic about the future of Haiti. You said: I'm convinced that Haiti has a remarkable opportunity to break the chains of its past. And looking at this disaster now, it just seems to deal an immeasurable blow to those hopes.

Pres. CLINTON: Well, 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. I mean, 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, the hurricanes, and more energy efficient to put more people to work and the rebuilding of the country to find ways to avoid deforestation now and reforest the country, all of the things we're trying to do.

I believe that, look, this is a horrible tragedy. It's going to be devastating economically and most important of all, an enormous number of people have died or been seriously injured. The U.N. toll alone has been - it's been terrible. You can see here at the U.N. headquarters, a lot of people are just like me. We knew these people. They were our friends. They were our colleagues. But every tragedy in 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 regularly. They have been in touch with the president and the government. And they want to get up on their feet. But they've got to, first of all, find the living and tend to them and care for the ones who have perished and returned to their families where possible and clean the streets and, you know, deal with this immediate emergency.

BLOCK: Mr. President, you've been going to Haiti, I've read, for 35 years now.

Pres. CLINTON: That's correct.

BLOCK: And I'm wondering, when you first heard about this magnitude 7 earthquake yesterday, just how that struck you, how it resonated with you?

Pres. CLINTON: Well, it was very tough because, first, because of the damage to the Haitian people. Secondly, when I realized that the hotel containing all of our U.N. people had totally collapsed five stories, I knew that we must've had a substantial number of fatalities. And then I saw the presidential palace that I first visited in '95. I saw the parliament building in trouble. Then the cathedral where I took Hillary first in, literally, in December of 1975, I took Hillary there to the cathedral. And we sat in the pews and looked at the beautiful church and so it's very personal to me.

But this is an important thing. People all over the world can identify with this on a purely human level and, of course, in our region, the rest of Haiti's neighbors, more than at any time in my lifetime, want to see Haiti become a full partner in the future of the region. So, I think the Caribbean nations, the Latin American nations, Canada, Mexico, they're all going to be out there pitching in.

BLOCK: President Clinton, thank you very much.

Pres. CLINTON: Thank you.

BLOCK: That's former President Bill Clinton, the U.N.'s special envoy for Haiti.

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