Obama, Bush, Clinton seek funds for Haiti

January 17th, 2010 - 5:14 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, Jan 17 (DPA) US President Barack Obama met Saturday with his predecessors George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who have been enlisted by the White House to coordinate fundraising and aid efforts in the aftermath of Haiti’s tragic earthquake.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also en route to Haiti Saturday, carrying supplies and planning talks with Haitian President Rene Preval and UN officials.

Obama and former presidents Bush and Clinton urged Americans and others to donate as much money as they could to help Haiti recover from the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that rattled the impoverished Caribbean nation on Tuesday.

“Our hearts are broken when we see the scenes of little children struggling without a mom or a dad, or the bodies in the streets, or the physical damage of the earthquake,” Bush said, his voice cracking at times.

Bush has been mostly absent from the public eye since leaving office in January 2009, but said he was “so pleased to answer the call to work alongside President Clinton to mobilize the compassion of the American people.”

The Obama administration has pledged $100 million and more than $10 million has already been donated by the US public. The two former presidents sought to reassure that donations will be spent wisely and set up a relief fund at the website

www.clintonbushhaitifund.org.

“I know a lot of people want to send blankets or water. Just send cash,” said Bush, who had enlisted Clinton and his own father George HW Bush in a similar effort to raise funds in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami of 2004.

As the US steps up its relief effort in Haiti, Obama warned of difficult days ahead as logistical problems and a lack of infrastructure have made it extremely difficult to deliver aid to the impoverished country.

“Every day that goes by we learn more about the horrifying scope of this catastrophe, destruction and suffering that defies comprehension,” said Obama, flanked by the two former presidents at the White House. “This time of suffering can and must be a time of

compassion.”

Some 4,200 US military personnel were already in and off the coast of Haiti, including a destroyer and aircraft carrier, and another 6,300 were due to arrive by Monday. Haiti’s government has agreed to allow the US military to take control of the lone airport in capital Port-au-Prince, the focal point of relief efforts.

Hillary Clinton said the military had succeeded in getting a container port up and running at Cap Haitian in northern Haiti, which would help speed up relief efforts. The port in the capital Port-au-Prince was rendered unusable by the earthquake.

Her husband Bill Clinton, who already served as a UN special envoy to Haiti before the quake, promised a long-term effort to coordinate fundraising for Haiti’s rebuilding, which will take many years.

“We want to stay with this over the long run,” Clinton said.

Vice President Joe Biden meanwhile visited the Haitian-American community in Miami, Florida. He said the US was committed “to do whatever needs to be done” to help Haiti.

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