Despite Aid, Haiti Very Much On Its Own

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be in Haiti today, where survivors of this week's earthquake are desperate for food, water and medical care. Host Scott Simon talks with NPR's Jason Beaubien, who is in Port-au-Prince.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

President Barack Obama joined former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to announce today that they'll lead a national drive to raise money to help survivors of Haiti's devastating earthquake. Former President Bush made a plea for more donations.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I know a lot of people want to send blankets or water. Just send your cash. One of the things that the president and I will do is make sure your money is spent wisely.

SIMON: And President Obama provided an update on the US-led relief effort.

President BARACK OBAMA: Thousands of American personnel, civilian and military, are on the scene working to distribute clean drinking water and food and medicine and thousands of tons of emergency food supplies are arriving every day.

SIMON: NPR's Jason Beaubien has been in the capital. And Jason, tell us what's happening today.

JASON BEAUBIEN: Today is going to be more of what has been happening ever since this quake struck on Tuesday. It's still digging out. People are still trying to just get the basics - trying to get a place to sleep, trying to work out getting food, getting water. People are just really trying to deal with the basics and still trying to get people out of buildings.

There are still an untold number of people trapped inside buildings, alive, knocking on walls. People are trying to dig them out.

SIMON: And the - I can't begin to estimate, thousands, hundreds of thousands who are walking around with real wounds. How much medical care is available?

BEAUBIEN: Medical care is still a real issue here. Many of the clinics, many of the hospitals were severely damaged. Aid groups have been coming in and trying to get their operations set up. That is just starting to happen. It's been very makeshift in front of the hotel where I'm staying. This hotel was fairly severely damaged but it's habitable. A group has set up front here and people are just flooding in with their wounded loved ones, their relatives at night by flashlight.

There was - a gynecologist was out there sewing up people's heads, treating wounds. Yeah, it's very makeshift at the moment.

SIMON: Do you get the idea anybody's in charge or who is in charge?

BEAUBIEN: There's very much a sense that no one is in charge here. Occasionally you'll see some Haitian police on the streets, but there's very much a sense that the state has collapsed, in part because the governmental buildings have all collapsed. The government is not functioning. For a long time, it's been completely unclear where President Rene Preval is. There's very much a sense that things have broken down.

And it's interesting. You know, I was talking to a guy outside of a university where supposedly 60 people are still trapped inside, and they can hear them knocking on walls. And he was saying that it's going to be the United Nations, the United States, the international community, that they're going to have to take charge of getting control back over what's happening in Haiti.

Because even if the governmental people in Haiti wanted to get together, they have nowhere to meet, they have no means of communication. So in the short term, Haitians are really looking particularly to the U.S. to come in and try to get things moving, get this recovery operation going and move this country forward from a devastating disaster.

SIMON: Have people moved from shock, despair, to anger?

BEAUBIEN: You're getting some of that. The World Food Programme got out yesterday and started distributing just little biscuits from trucks and there was just mobs of people trying to get them. And things started to break down. But overall, it really hasn't gotten that bad yet.

And from what I've seen, being out on the streets, you are seeing some acts of looting and whatnot, but it's fairly minor, considering the fact that there doesn't seem to be any law and order. And considering sort of the scale of what's happened here, people seem to be taking it fairly calmly.

SIMON: NPR's Jason Beaubien in Port-au-Prince, thanks so much.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.

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