QUESTION: Welcome back to the most news in the morning and our continuing coverage of the rescue and relief mission going on right now in Haiti. As the death toll rises, the true extent of the damage is difficult, if not impossible, to assess. The next 24 hours will be critical for survivors. What is America doing to help?
Joining us with an update on the U.S. relief efforts is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she’s live at the State Department this morning. Madame Secretary, thanks for being with us. I know that you’re very familiar with Haiti. You were there last April. Your husband is the UN envoy to Haiti.
We’re seeing, obviously, a lot of pictures on the ground, talking to some people. But in the overall – the big picture, what’s the situation down there and how capable is the Haitian Government of responding to this?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, John, it’s a devastating situation, there’s no doubt, as you look at the pictures that are coming back that give you a snapshot, and you multiply that over an area that affects about 3 million people and the collapse of tens of thousands of buildings. But we’ve got a very coordinated, aggressive response going on. We have sent some of our crack search-and-rescue teams into Port-au-Prince. They’re beginning their work. We’re coordinating with the Haitian president, President Preval.
Unfortunately, as you know, the government buildings were terribly damaged by the earthquake, a lot of government members unaccounted for, no communications system. We’re supplying a communications system so they can begin to get up and running. We’re working with the United Nations, which was equally devastated by the collapse of their headquarters.
So the authorities that existed before the earthquake are not able to fully function. We’re going to try to support them as they reestablish authority. The peacekeepers, the UN peacekeepers, about 7,000 of them commanded by a Brazilian general, are beginning to clear the roads. Our Coast Guard has been unbelievable. They got there first, as you might guess, being in the area. We’ve got the 82nd Airborne and other military assets coming in. We had a military team reopen the airport so we can start to handle the big heavy planes.
There’s an enormous amount of work going on. I’m very proud of our response. We’re grateful for the international response. But I think we have a long way ahead of us. The next 24 hours is critical to save those lives that can be saved. We know that from other earthquakes and other disasters. But then, we have a long way back to try to deal with the devastation of the loss of life and infrastructure.
QUESTION: Oh, yeah, sure. And I can imagine that that’s a process that’s going to take years if not decades to fully recover when you look at the extent of the devastation and Haiti’s ability to recover from it.
You know, you talk about search-and-rescue, clearing roads, that sort of thing. There’s also an enormous medical need there. What hospitals that remain standing are jammed with people. Doctors Without Borders has got a field hospital set up. But what is the United States doing in terms of bringing down medical teams to help care for the many, many people that we see that are so desperately in need? And our Ivan Watson yesterday had a story of a woman whose foot had been amputated in a collapse and she’d been sitting outside the hospital with a tourniquet around her leg for more than 24 hours.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you’re right. The hospitals in Port-au-Prince have collapsed. There’s a few facilities still opening, but not really capable of handling the surge of need. The other groups are there. The United States is bringing down medical personnel. We have some on the ground right now. I know that there are trauma teams that have been dispatched. We have the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier on the way, which will be able to provide some medical assistance. We’ve got the USS Comfort getting ready to leave to get down there.
But the immediate trauma crisis, we’re trying to meet with volunteer doctors, with medical – with military doctors and others. Because the – and you’re right, I mean, this is a large area involving many, many, many millions of people who have been cut off from access. Just getting to people to provide the medical assistance they need is proving to be very difficult.
QUESTION: And what about the security situation there, Madame Secretary? People have been pretty orderly up until this point, but we’re starting to get now into the end of day two, beginning of day three; people will begin to get desperate as they realize that they don’t have the food, medical, water supplies that they need. It’s a place where security has been shaky anyways. What can the U.S. do to help provide security? Is that why the 82nd Airborne is going down?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we also have a contingent of about 2,000 Marines going down. We’re going to work with the international peacekeepers under the UN to supplement them in providing security. You’re right that they’ve been basically the police force. Haiti doesn’t have an army. They didn’t have much of a police force. It’s being rebuilt by the United Nations with our assistance.
This is a country that has suffered so many blows. Last year it was four hurricanes. This year, it’s an earthquake. It is hard almost to imagine. But the people of Haiti are resilient. They are a hopeful people. We are going to do everything we can to maintain order. As you say, so far it has been orderly. But in the wake of disasters like this, people do get desperate.
SECRETARY CLINTON: If you have a starving baby in your arms, you are going to try to find food wherever you can. So we’re moving as quickly as possible. Once we can get communications up so we can tell people where to go, what kind of help they can expect, we’ll be able to better manage the crisis.
QUESTION: There’s also that issue of the prison that partially collapsed and a lot of criminals roaming free now.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, thanks so much for spending the time this morning. We’ll keep a close eye on what the U.S. is doing in relief efforts.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good. John, one quick thing. For people who are worried about missing friends, family, loved ones, please call 1-888-407-4747. And if you wish to donate, you can text the word Haiti, H-a-i-t-i, to 90999. We’ve raised $3 million. It goes to the Red Cross, which is in desperate need of resources to buy the supplies that the people of Haiti require.
QUESTION: Okay, and we’ll keep reminding people of that all morning.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, great to spend some time with you. Thanks so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thanks, John.
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