Video: Bill Clinton: $10 can make a difference

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    >> president bill clinton is the united nations special envoy for haiti . he's been tapped by president obama along with former president george w. bush to lead the private sector fund-raising efforts. president clinton , good to see you. good morning.

    >> thank you, matt.

    >> we're starting to hear that the effort is well under way. i think the response from the united states and other countries has been pretty swift and impressive. there are survival stories. that's good news. i know one of the messages you want to communicate this morning, sir, is that you want americans to be generous at this time of need for the haitian people .

    >> i do. let's look at where we are. first of all, we're still finding people alive. we've got 21 more search-and-rescue teams coming in today, but they don't have enough water, they don't have enough food, they don't have enough medical supplies. we've still got to find shelter for all those people that have no place to go at night, and that's the way to make it safer. so, i want to first thank all the americans who have given. to our u.n. fund, which is clintonfoundation.org/ haiti earthquake, people who just texted " haiti " at 20222 and automatically given $10. if you want to just give $10, you can make a huge difference, because we've got another week or so of the work you see on television. i know people say, well, the first 72 hours is critical, but believe me, even in the fourth day we'll be pulling people out of the rubble who are alive. while that gets done, we've got to move the food, the water and the medical supplies in, and they're getting better organized at the airport, the american military 's been terrific, both with the navy and coast guard efforts on the water.

    >> right.

    >> with the helicopters coming in. people coming in everywhere else. but everybody needs to focus on the fact -- you see all those people coming out alive. they have to have water and food, and all of the people that are homeless have to have it.

    >> and then you start --

    >> and medical supplies are still short.

    >> right. you talk about what this is going to cost. you're someone who has an awful lot of experience raising an awful lot of money for the clinton global initiative , billions of dollars so far. is this a case now, president clinton , where you pick up the phone and you talk to some of the people who have been so generous to you in the past, these major contributors, and you say, look, i need you more than ever now? and how are they responding?

    >> oh, very well. i even had a man yesterday complain -- i had a meeting with more than 50 people yesterday who were philanthropists and nongovernmental leaders interested in haiti and private investors . the meeting was scheduled before the earthquake. they all still wanted to come. they all said we're in for the long run. and one man said, "i don't think you've asked me for enough." i think that as we get into the recovery and the rebuilding phase of this, that's what former president bush and i are supposed to do. we're going to keep america involved over the long run. the taxpayers alone can't do this. but i was really encouraged. i talked by phone to all the major countries that are donors, and i had a meeting with these individual efforts, and everybody's committed for the long run. haiti was on the path to making a real modern state there before this earthquake, and once this crisis passes, we're just going to modify the plan they were on to take account of this damage done and go back to work, and the american people can help. and i know they will.

    >> when you talk to former president bush , did the two of you come up with -- i don't mean to put you on the spot here, president clinton , but did the two of you come up with a number, a figure, a goal in terms of fund-raising, what you think it's going to take to rebuild that country? and in some cases, we're not talking about rebuilding, we're talking about building from scratch.

    >> well, the short answer is no, because we've got to get through the next week to ten days first doing all the recovery of bodies we can, people living and dead. and then getting the worst of the debris out of the way so that that work can be done again. during that time, we are reconstituting our united nations team, you know, the people i worked with down there for the last year. we lost a huge number of people, but a lot of them i know are still alive under that rubble. so, we're rebuilding our ability to do damage assessment, as is everyone else. at that time, we'll have a better idea of what the responsibilities are, what role the united states should take and what role our people should fulfill, and we'll tell the american people that and we'll go about raising the money.

    >> you know, this is the poorest country in the western hemisphere , very little in the way of infrastructure was there before this quake. i heard some official yesterday on the air, president clinton , saying that this quake will set that country back 50 years. and yet, you just sounded very optimistic. you wrote yesterday that haiti is not doomed. and as we look at the pictures of the devastation, i'm just curious what gives you that sense of hope?

    >> first of all, before this earthquake hit, we had worked hard for a year to adopt, have the haitian government adopt an economic plan designed to improve investment, get more jobs there, get more clean energy there, improve the schools, improve the health care , the infrastructure, the roads, the agriculture. they had a plan, and we were implementing it. secondly, because they started from a low base, we can reconstitute where they are quicker than everyone thinks. i just do not agree that they've been set back 50 years. that's a decision for them and for us. but if we go back to work, we'll be all right. but first we have to get through the time which is disastrous now because we don't have enough food, water, medical supplies and shelter. that's why we've asked so many people first to focus on the basic human needs . get us through the next two weeks and then former president bush and i will go back to work. the president's been great, president obama , and the secretary of state, usaid, they're all committed to the long run. we're going to be fine there. i think you'll be amazed how much good we can do, but i don't want to minimize how awful it is now. let's get through this first.

    >> former president bill clinton . president clinton , thanks for your time this morning. good luck to you.

    >> thanks, matt.

    >> it's now 11 minutes after

updated 1/15/2010 9:19:29 AM ET 2010-01-15T14:19:29

Haiti has received billions of dollars in taxpayer and private aid from the United States and others, yet is so poor that few homes had safe drinking water, sewage disposal or electricity even before the earthquake. With sympathetic donors around the world sending money, making sure that aid is spent properly will be a challenge.

Corruption, theft and other crime and Haiti's sheer shortage of fundamentals — reliable roads, telephone and power lines and a sound financial system — add to the difficulty as foreign governments and charities try not only to help Haiti recover from the disaster but pull itself out of abject poverty.

It is one of the poorest places on Earth. Most basic public services are lacking, people typically live on less than $2 a day, nearly half the population is illiterate and the government has a history of instability. The public has little opportunity to be sure that aid to the government is used honestly and well. Nor is following the money easy for donors, including the United States, 700 miles away and one of the country's biggest helpers.

"It has been a challenge and I think it really is one of the things we have to look at when the country has had such long-standing problems that it seems as though we have made little dent there," said Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee's subcommittee on international organizations, human rights and oversight.

The immediate focus is search and rescue and addressing immediate public health needs. But after that, "I think there's going to be a number of questions that arise," Carnahan said.

Just last month, a private group, the Heritage Foundation for Haiti, urged Haiti's government to complete an audit of a $197 million emergency disaster program to respond to corruption allegations over how the money was handled. Haiti's senate cited the allegations when it removed Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis in November and replaced her with Jean-Max Bellerive.

President Barack Obama promised at least $100 million in earthquake aid. That comes on top of substantial spending by the United States in Haiti in recent years for economic development, such as the country's textile industry, humanitarian assistance, environmental programs, and law enforcement, including trying to stop the use of Haiti as a pass-through point for narcotics en route to the United States.

Apart from earthquake relief, senators working on the next annual foreign assistance budget have proposed at least $282 million for Haiti; the House proposal would provide at least $165 million.

Much of the U.S. government's aid to Haiti comes through the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has provided at least $800 million from budget years 2004 through 2008, agency figures show.

At least $700 million more was pledged for Haiti by governments, international givers and charities at an April 2009 donors conference. Former President Bill Clinton, a United Nations special envoy to the country, told the U.N. Security Council in September that he was "100 percent committed to delivering tangible results to the U.N. and most importantly the people of Haiti."

The Haitian government relies on foreign aid to keep itself and its economy operating.

In a December 2008 Gallup survey, 60 percent of Haitians interviewed said there had been times that year when they didn't have enough money to buy food, and 51 percent said there were times they couldn't afford shelter.

Statistics about Haiti, as gathered by the U.S. government, chronicle a grim standard of living. According to the CIA and State Department, 1 in 8 children in Haiti dies before age 5. The life expectancy is 59 to 62 years. Malaria, typhoid and dengue fevers and other life-threatening illnesses long ago wiped out in the industrialized world still plague Haiti.

For government and private relief organizations, simply communicating and moving money and supplies around in the country were difficult absent a natural disaster like this one.

As of 2008, Haiti had 108,000 main telephone lines in use, putting it 142nd among countries in land-line phone use, but ranked better on cellular access. There were 3.2 million cellular phones in use in 2008, making it 105th worldwide by that measure, the U.S. government said.

"Attention on Haiti is often focused in times of disaster but not necessarily in the long-term," said Rich Thorsten, director of international programs for Water.org, a charity working to provide safe drinking water and sewage treatment to Haitians. "Funding that has been available does not necessarily go toward basic infrastructure like water and sanitation."

The Haitian government doesn't use its own resources for sanitation, and instead depends on charities, Thorsten said. In addition, international groups often do not coordinate, and there are also problems with security, corruption and political stability, he said.

"It is very important to keep track of the spending, and so when we work with partner organizations we make sure they have detailed accounting systems," he said. Supplies must be guarded, he added.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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