Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
January 14, 2010
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thanks very much for joining us this morning.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning, George.
QUESTION: I spoke with the Haitian Ambassador to the United States this morning. He thinks that there are about 100,000 casualties, other estimates as high as 500,000. What’s your best estimate right now?
SECRETARY CLINTON: George, I don’t want to hazard a guess. We know from the analysis we’re doing with the teams that are on the ground there that it’s devastated. There are about 3 million people affected. Thousands and thousands – I don’t want to put a number, but tens of thousands we fear are dead, many thousands more are injured.
When you look at the television pictures that you and others are broadcasting, you see all of this. But when you’re on the ground and you see the roads that are totally impassable, an airport that was knocked out of commission, no air traffic control, trying to piece together the step-by-step, patient work that is necessary to minimize the loss of both life and to try to get people back into some semblance of normalcy, it’s just very hard.
QUESTION: This is a country that’s just going to have to be rebuilt from the ground up, isn’t it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thankfully, the people of Haiti are a resilient people. I’ve been going down there – I hate to say it – for 35 years. The first time I went was 1975, been back there since. As you know, my husband is the Secretary General of the UN’s Special Envoy to Haiti. And we had a full government effort under the Obama Administration to really help the people of Haiti. We were making a lot of progress. Businesses were returning to Haiti, we had a great plan from the Haitian Government, who is our partner.
And this is devastating on every level, but we’re going to work with President Preval and the Government of Haiti, we’re going to work with the United Nations which has suffered a terrible loss with the collapse of its headquarters, a loss of its leadership, and as we get through this crisis, we’re going to do everything we can to help Haiti rebuild.
QUESTION: You know, you hit on one of the reasons this is just so heartbreaking. You know, Haiti seems to be such a star-crossed country, and every time they seem to be getting back on their feet, most recently after these hurricanes from last year, it seems they get knocked right down again.
SECRETARY CLINTON: George, that is unfortunately a fair observation. We have seen the cycle of hope and despair so many times, but what I have been encouraged by was that under President Preval and their government, they had a plan, it was their own plan, they came to the United States, we reached out to the international community, we had a really coordinated effort with the United Nations. But that’s not going to disappear. We just have to regroup and see what we’re going to do now.
QUESTION: The scale of this effort is going to be massive, isn’t it? You know, we pledged, the United States, about $350 million in aid after the tsunami. Is this going to surpass that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we don’t know yet. We know it’s going to be very large because of the need, but I think the combination of international donations, the American Government, which is committed, as President Obama has said, and the generosity of the American people – there are about 45,000 American citizens in Haiti. Many of them, of course, are Haitian Americans, but many of them are Americans who are down in Haiti working with church groups, working with nongovernmental organizations on behalf of children or the environment or many of the other needs that Haiti faces. And I’m very proud of our government response and I’m very proud of the outpouring of generosity and concern.
QUESTION: One final question: Of those 45,000 Americans, only several hundred have been in contact with U.S. officials. What more can you tell us about the safety and security of Americans now in Haiti?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I know that there are many worried families, loved ones out there. I have a number we want you to call for information. It’s 1-888-407-4747. Please call that number. Let us know about your loved ones. We will try to get information.
QUESTION: Okay, Madame Secretary. We’ll put that number up on our website as well. Thanks very much for your time this morning.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thanks, George.