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Search and Rescue Efforts Remain in Full Force; Secretary of State Clinton En Route to Haiti; Presidents Clinton and Bush Urge Americans to Donate to Haiti
Aired January 16, 2010 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: More dire by the minute and more desperate by the hour. Here is the latest on what we know going on in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
U.S. officials say search and rescue efforts remain in full force despite diminishing hopes of finding any more survivors in the rubble of the Haitian capital.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a team of relief workers are en route to Port-au-Prince as President Barack Obama gets former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to help raise money for the Haitian relief efforts.
President Obama discussed the situation in Haiti this morning with his two predecessors at the White House, President George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The two former presidents agreed to lead private fundraising efforts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: By coming together in this way, these two leaders send an unmistakable message to the people of Haiti and to the people of the world.
In these difficult hours, America stands united. We stand united with the people of Haiti who have shown such incredible resilience and we'll help them to recover and to rebuild.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: CNN White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux joins us with details -- Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, having covered all three of these presidents individually, it was fascinating to see all three of them together in the Rose Garden today, obviously talking about something that is very dear and important to them.
What struck me was really the emotion that came from the two presidents who are taking on this humanitarian effort, this new effort, Presidents Clinton and Bush.
You heard President Clinton today talking about the fact he personally knew people who perished from the earthquake through the United Nations. He is the U.N. special envoy to Haiti. He talked about the fact he's gone way back decades. He had his honeymoon in Haiti with Hillary Clinton in 1975, and that the country was on its way to more political and economic stability.
We also heard from President Bush who said he was sick to his stomach, that he has been watching this television coverage from his Texas home, and that it is so, so tragic, that he's been emotionally impacted by all of this.
And he is urging Americans to, yes, get involved, to give money, to donate. But he wants to reassure them there is some accountability here, that through their fund, the Clinton-Bush fund, there will be some accountability in terms of where people's money goes. And he wants to make sure they are reassured of that fact.
I want you to take a listen. This is the highlights of what they said earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The people of Haiti is to contribute money. That money will go to organizations on the ground and who will be able to effectively spend it. I know a lot of people want to send blankets or water. Just send your cash.
One of the things the president and I will do is make sure your money is spent wisely.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I have no words to say at what I feel. I was in those hotels that collapsed. I had meals with people who are dead. The cathedral church Hillary and I sat in 34 years ago is a total rubble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: And so what these presidents are asking for people to do is to go to this Web site, Fred, it is www.ClintonBushHaitifund.org. And obviously the focus is the immediate need, they emergency need, but also they want to prolong this, the long-term here, they want to give voice and attention to the educational issues that are there, the health care crisis, the economic situation.
And so part of their mission is when all of the crisis is settled down and people aren't paying close attention, that these two presidents will give the kind of gravitas and attention that it deserves to focus on the long-term recovery of Haiti. Fred?
WHITFIELD: All right, Suzanne Malveaux, thank you so much. And former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, they are not done talking about the Haiti relief effort and what they're planning to do to stay forward. They'll be on CNN "STATE OF THE UNION" tomorrow. Join CNN's John King for that 9:00 a.m. Eastern time interview here on CNN. So time is running out for many people who may be trapped alive under the rubble. Let's get to CNN Susan Candiotti who is in Port-au- Prince.
And Susan, we heard from Anderson Cooper not long ago at a location where they believe a little girl might be in the rubble four days after the earthquake. How hopeful are people that there may be other situations like that?
We are going to try to work on that audio because we cannot hear her. Good to hear that she can hear us, however. See if we can reestablish a connection with Susan Candiotti there in Port-au-Prince.
Meantime our Edward Lavandera is in Little Haiti in Miami where a lot of folks are waiting to hear some kind of word about loved ones in Haiti. How are they trying to communicate with one another, Ed?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredericka, it's interesting. Just a short while ago we went to a nearby community center where they set up a phone bank. And there are about a dozen people in there trying to put their calls through to try to communicate with loved ones.
So there are still, even this many days after the earthquake, there are still many people here in this Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami where one of the largest populations of Haitians in the U.S. live that are still drastically trying to figure out what is going on there in the capital city of Haiti.
Throughout this part of Miami, we are also seeing acts of kindness like this, Fredricka. These are people who have been coming here throughout the day at fire stations around town, bringing -- you look at the back of this truck, a stack full of water, food, nonperishable food. They have been dropping this off at fire stations around town.
And this is not an organized deal. This started happening according to one city official I spoke to a short while ago. He said people started coming to the fire station.
So they are in the process of moving all these things that people are dropping off -- clothing, soap, diapers for babies, and the bottled water. They are taking this all to a warehouse.
And city officials here in Miami are going through the process of figuring out which will be the best and most effective way of getting all these goods into the hands of the people who need them the most in Port-au-Prince. So that process is still undergoing.
But throughout this part of Miami, you can see this outpouring of kindness and people wanting to help all of those people so drastically affected by the earthquake. Fredricka?
WHITFIELD: That is fantastic. We are talking about the Haitian- American population in south Florida, particularly, almost 200,000 strong. So I know a lot of folks are galvanized to do everything they can to help.
Ed Lavandera, thanks so much from Little Haiti there in Miami.
WHITFIELD: John Eaves has been sending volunteers to Haiti for years now on behalf of the U.S. Peace Corps. He joins me now to talk about the tragedy there and the volunteerism, John Eden, the former regional manager for the U.S. Peace Corps, good to see you.
JOHN EAVES, FORMER REGIONAL DIRECTOR, U.S. PEACE CORPS: Thanks for having me.
WHITFIELD: I know your heart just bleeds for the people there, and your volunteers who worked so hard on a regular basis to help people as best they can. Are you hearing from a lot of your volunteers who say, I don't want to leave because I want to stay here to help out as best I can?
EAVES: Peace Corps is no longer in Haiti right now. But there are certainly former volunteers who live in the Atlanta area as well as throughout the nation. And many of them have strong connections in Haiti in terms of people they work with, projects they oversaw. And they certainly are concerned about what's happening down there right now.
WHITFIELD: How do people feel like they want to help? If Peace Corps as a whole is not really present there, how are your volunteers or people you've been working with over the years saying put me to work. How do you do that?
EAVES: Peace Corps has what they the Crisis Corps. The Crisis Corps started several years ago. It was designed for situations like this where there is intervention help needed where there are disasters.
And so Peace Corps will probably send some former volunteers down there sometime in the near future to help out with intervention and help efforts.
WHITFIELD: As you watch coverage, as you see images and you see where the needs are, how are volunteers best going to be utilized? Because the biggest obstacles, one of the biggest obstacles is simply getting around, trying to get to people who need help. And that is secondary to just getting the aid in to help out people.
EAVES: I think. the first priority is to stabilize the country. I think what the president is doing in terms of the USAID, in terms of the military being involved in a good step. It's designed to stabilize the country, maintain order in the country.
Once that is established, I think that there is a role where Peace Corps volunteers and other international relief organizations can come in, work with locals in terms of basic sanitary needs, basic needs in terms of getting around.
The first step though is the stabilization part that the government is doing. WHITFIELD: Those are the things that encourage you. What are you seeing that discourages you?
EAVES: First of all, I think people need to know that there is extreme poverty in Haiti. Not only that, there's some incredible infrastructure challenges in Haiti in terms of running water, sanitation.
WHITFIELD: And that's when things are going well, meaning you don't have a natural disaster.
And so I think the main thing that needs to get out that I saw as a person who visited Haiti is the Haitian people are a strong people, have a strong spirit, have a tremendous work ethic.
So even though this is a bad thing that happened, if these are people used to dealing with challenges, they are certainly a group of people who can weather the storm, so to speak, and they have a strong spirit and strong work ethic.
WHITFIELD: It's interesting that you said that, because a Haitian-American friend of mine said two things can come out of this. One, that the world will be paying attention to a country that is so desperately in need.
And number two, the Haitian people historically are just so incredibly resilient, that they'll show their resiliency even through something like this. Do you agree with that?
EAVES: I certainly agree with that. Haiti as a country has been ignored. It is a small country and one of the poorest countries in the world. But it certainly needs the attention it deserves.
And I think something comprehensive, something multinational in terms of what they did after World War II with the Marshall plan in terms of rebuilding the country. So I think something needs to be done in a comprehensive long-standing approach dealing with Haiti.
WHITFIELD: That sounds very much in concert with what we heard from President Bill Clinton earlier today, who said this is one thing, but there really is a long-term commitment, something he and his foundation have been committed to for a long time now, and now even working in concert with the U.N.
All right, John Eaves, former regional manager for the U.S. Peace Corps, we'll see you again next hour. Thanks so much.
EAVES: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Well, of course, if you want to make donations, you can, to Haitian relief. And so many different ways, and perhaps you want to know how your money is being allocated. It is a big question we'll put up to the Dolans, coming up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RENE PREVAL, HAITIAN PRESIDENT: My palace collapsed.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So you don't have a home?
PREVAL: I still work, but they tell me I cannot work here because it is not safe, so I'm going home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Among the homeless there in Haiti, the president of the country Rene Preval talking to our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
There are so many people who are trying to connect with loved ones, trying to find loved ones, whether they be trapped underneath the rubble or simply they don't see them and they are trying to coordinate. There are a lot of folks in disarray there.
Our Susan Candiotti is in Port-au-Prince. We'll try one more time. We tried to reestablish audio there. Hopefully she can hear and we can hear her. Where are you exactly, Susan?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fredricka, I know just now you were talking about search and rescue missions, and that is a story we were reporting on earlier today. And of course those missions continue to go on.
But at this hour we are reporting how the country is trying to get some of its infrastructure back into business, back to normal. Right now I'm reporting to you from a gas station that has reopened for the first time in three days, and this is what it looks like when something like that happens.
I wouldn't call it chaos, but I would call it controlled chaos or possibly organized chaos. Take a look around. These people have been in line since 7:00 this morning eastern time. That means over seven hours.
You have four lines at this particular gas station donated to cars. You've got one with individuals, people lined up with their gas cans, and you have another line over here for people with motorcycles who are lined up.
And is there screaming and yelling? Oh, yes, you bet there is. Just listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm the only ambulance service in Haiti, the only ambulance in Haiti. I need gas to pick up these people. The government doesn't understand that. They don't understand the priority. Ambulance has to have gas. I should not have to come here in this line begging for gas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIOTTI: Now, these people want to know why it's taking so long to get the gasoline, and yet they are being very patient about it. They are standing shoulder to shoulder. I can't begin to explain to you and describe to you how hot and humid it is here, but they are patiently waiting their turn, except naturally people get overheated at times.
What are they using this for? Some people tell us that they need the gasoline to run generators. Other people need it because they run a taxi service and they are trying to get people out of here, people who've lost their homes to other parts of the country so they have someplace he'll to stay.
Still other people of course will try to resell this on the street, as they are a lot of other things.
But they claim they are not going to run out of gas. They've got 12,000 gallons at this particular gas station. Other ones are slowly opening and closing bit by bit.
The concern of the country is that they are also worried about having too many people out there in a country and in a capital city where there is already a lot of traffic to begin with, and they are trying to get bulldozers in and get rid of some of the buildings that have fallen down.
And also trying to get some of the rescue missions underway, as well. So you see what they have to deal with.
It's a dire situation, but they are trying to get the gasoline out there to people who need it. How much does it cost? About $5 a gallon. Fredericka?
WHITFIELD: Wow, a very steep price. Thank you so much, Susan Candiotti.
And that gentleman is the sound bite that you ran, he is running an ambulance, he says, and he shouldn't have to be among the thousands of people standing in line in order to get gasoline just for his ambulance so he can get much-needed aid to a lot of people.
Susan Candiotti there in Port-au-Prince.
So despite these difficult economic times for many people here in the U.S., and that is an understatement for people in Haiti, Americans are opening their wallets to help that country. CNN's Alina Cho looks at your money now in action.
CHO: The phones at UNICEF are ringing off the hook, millions pouring in online. So following the money, where are those dollars going, and how fast? CHO (on camera): When you click on that "donate" button and you give your money, how quickly does that money start getting used?
SZARKOWSKI: That money is converted into aid within hours.
CHO (voice-over): UNICEF's Lisa Sarkowski says these early days of crucial.
CHO (on camera): This critical window is now. How long does it last?
LISA SZARKOWSKI, UNICEF: I would say for the next week. The disease post-disaster has the potential to kill as many if not more people than the occurrence itself of the earthquake.
CHO (voice-over): Which is why charity experts say getting your money to the right organization is key. Rule number one, think big.
TREVOR NIELSON, PRESIDENT, GLOBAL PHILANTHROPY GROUP: Think about the organizations that are most likely to get the dollar you donate directly to the people of Haiti. That's unlikely to be a small local organization. That's why the U.N. is such an attractive place to donate money right now or the Red Cross.
CHO: UNICEF is a U.N. agency, and its first wave of donations is going toward essential supplies. And it doesn't take much to make a difference -- water purification tablets, plastic jugs to hold clean water, first aid kits -- total cost, pennies because UNICEF buys in bulk.
What the victims in Haiti need right now, supplies that could save lives.
SZARKOWSKI: This is called oral rehydration salts. These cost seven cents for this package and literally can bring a child back to life.
CHO: How much does a tent like this cost?
SZARKOWSKI: About $700 for a tent. It is a shelter, a community center, it can be a hospital.
CHO: Even a school. This school in a box costs $190 and provides supplies for 80 children. These will be sent to Haiti in the coming weeks.
SZARKOWSKI: It's often surprising to people that this would be such a priority, but if we don't do it now and soon, our years of experience show us it can cripple children and really seriously impede their recovery. What we need to do immediately is restore some sense of normalcy, literally a safe haven.
CHO: With those donations simply pouring in for Haiti, it is easy for scam artists to try to take advantage of this situation, as well. So how do you know if your money is going where it is promised? Ken and Daria Dolan joining us now as they do every weekend from West Palm Beach. Good to see you all.
KEN DOLAN, DOLANS.COM: Hi, Fred.
DARIA DOLAN, DOLANS.COM: Hi, Fred.
WHITFIELD: This really is important because we even heard former President George W. Bush say that the best way is to donate cash. However, we also know there are people who are opportunists and may take advantage of the good will of so many.
KEN DOLAN: Very sad.
WHITFIELD: How do you tell the right places to send to your money?
DARIA DOLAN: And isn't it sad that the FBI felt compelled to put on the Internet a list of things to watch out for because the fact of the matter is in crisis times like this the scamsters get hold of things and start scamming people.
KEN DOLAN: We'll give from the FBI's press release, Fred, let's go through just a couple of things that are really important. Americans historically for natural disasters have been incredibly generous. Generous is wonderful, but let's be smart on how we do it.
Such as don't respond to unsolicited e-mail looking for donations, especially be very careful of those links. Those links could take you any place. Be careful.
WHITFIELD: In a big way people are texting their donations now for the first time that was not seen before.
DARIA DOLAN: But let me say one thing about texting before we go back to some of the bewares. When you text your donation, it's very simple. You think, that's quick.
KEN DOLAN: Instantaneous.
DARIA DOLAN: I put those numbers in there and it goes right to the charity I've selected and I'm good to go. But the fact of the matter is when you text a donation, it can take as long as 90 days for the charity to receive that money because, number one, you have to pay your bill, which may come two or three weeks later. That's when your money is committed.
Once you pay that bill, it then goes to a second party who aggregates all the other donations before it finally gets passed on to the charity.
So it's quick, it's simple, but it may not get where it need to go, unless you are talking salvation army or the Red Cross where they have a lot of extra funds where when they see there is a potential donation, they'll spend money they don't actually have because they have that money somewhere else. KEN DOLAN: And Fred, we are not saying -- what's that?
WHITFIELD: People are moved by these images and they immediately want to do something.
KEN DOLAN: Of course.
WHITFIELD: And yes they may know about organizations like American Red Cross, but want to find out where is my money best going. How do you go about that search?
KEN DOLAN: Exactly right, because there have been scandals over the years, Fred, on some charities, spending $300,000 for a chairman and Rolls Royce, et cetera.
There are some very good websites where they've done the due diligence there. There are watchdog organizations like guidestar.org, or charitynavigator.org, that's done a lot of homework to show that these are legitimate. Most of the money, at least 80 percent or more, depending on the charity, goes where you think it's going.
DARIA DOLAN: Because that's another big thing you need to be careful of. Some of the lesser-known charities that may have the best interests of the people in mind may spend as much as 50 cents or 60 cents of every dollar soliciting or paying salaries or what have you. So your 20 cents, 30 cents, 40 cents goes to the charity.
KEN DOLAN: So you have to be careful.
WHITFIELD: OK, our Josh Levs is part of the equation, as well. He's been receiving a lot of questions and inquiries from people about how they can help. What are you hearing we could convey to the Dolans?
JOSH LEVS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Because every week we have questions for the Dolans, right, and today we are focusing specifically on this.
And I'll mention, too, as you know, at CNN.com impact, we have links to charity navigator that can help people. We have people posting questions in that same place there. I'm just going to throw them at you right now.
Some people asking, how much should corporate America be expected to do in terms of charity right now at a time when there is such high unemployment, businesses need to rebuild so people here have jobs. In your view, how much should corporate America be doing to help Haiti?
KEN DOLAN: I think that is a very good question. I'll give you my opinion, Josh.
I think corporate America, individual organizations, very much have to give from the heart what they can afford same as individuals. I don't think you can say a company should give five percent of gross sales or a dollar for every Coke it sells. I think every corporation in America should get involved, but it's very much of a personal corporate thing. DARIA DOLAN: It very much is. The fact of the matter is, to try to keep score on something like that is foolish with what's going on right now. Rather everybody give, and if it's a corporate donation, much larger than a personal one, great.
LEVS: That leads into something else. A lot of people are posting this question anonymously. I think when it comes to charity, a lot of people give anonymously, and so that explains it.
Some people are talking about timing. We've got a bottleneck at the airport. Obviously there is than effort to get into Haiti. A lot of people are saying, should I give now or should I see how my finances work out and give two months from now when they still need aid?
DARIA DOLAN: What a great question.
KEN DOLAN: I love that.
DARIA DOLAN: I never quite thought of that before. So congratulations to whomever came up with it.
I think there is a great point to be made from that question in that right now we see all the pictures, and we are all moved to do something, so we make our donations and then as time passes and the rebuilding begins, the story fades from the headlines, and we forget.
There is more need of a different kind that will come then. I say whoever has the smarts and the ability to keep looking at the story or remembering the story maybe save off for a little bit later.
LEVS: It makes sense from the perspective of the charities. They want to make that money right now and have it to access months from now. I guess the fear is it fades from people's minds and they raise less.
KEN DOLAN: Josh, that's a good point. If you really, really trust a charity and know they'll parcel it out as need, you may not want to hesitate depending how strong you feel and how well a particular charity that you supported over the years, frankly, has done parceling it out on a timely basis over the years.
LEVS: You can't lose when it comes to make a decision to give to charity.
DARIA DOLAN: Now or later, just do it.
KEN DOLAN: Just do it.
WHITFIELD: There is a huge need right now, a huge void. And so many people can help fill that in so many different ways.
Ken and Daria Dolan, thank you so much out of West Palm Beach, Josh Levs, appreciate that.
KEN DOLAN: Thank you, Fred. DARIA DOLAN: Thank you, Fred.
LEVS: Buy, Fred.
WHITFIELD: One of the ways is medical care, hospitals, lack thereof, but there are some kind of make-shift and temporary hospital triage units that have been set up. Our Elizabeth Cohen traveled to Haiti with a team out of the U.S. We'll join her to find out exactly what is being done to help out so many people who are injured.
WHITFIELD: Right now you are looking at images of, oh, my goodness, a rescue taking place on Thursday. This man here, he was a U.N. security officer. He was pulled from the rubble by the Fairfax county rescue team out of Virginia that made its way into Haiti quickly.
They made their way in there on Wednesday, and they were able to conduct that rescue there on Thursday.
So with a critical shortage of medical aid in Haiti, field hospitals are filling the void as best they can. There are limitations. CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us from Port-au-Prince.
She made it into the country traveling with some doctors out of Florida. What's the latest on how their makeshift emergency or triage units are working?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, this is day three for me at this makeshift hospital of about 300 patients on the U.N. compound near the airport. And I'll tell you, the screams have intensified. We hear them all the time.
These are people with broken bones they are trying to control with morphine, and it's just not cutting it any more. For example, the loudest screams we hear are from people with pelvic fractures where the bones are sticking out of the skin. They need surgery.
And to talk about this I have Dr. Jennifer Furin here with me from Harvard medical school. And Dr. Furin, tell me, what percentage of the patients here need surgery within the next 24 hours?
DR. JENNIFER FURIN, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: Within the next four hours, approximately 30 percent of the patients in the hospital need immediate surgery or they are going to die.
COHEN: They will die of infections?
FURIN: They will die of infections, malnutrition, and metabolic derangements.
COHEN: The U.S. Department of Health and Human services does have a team that sets up operating rooms for patients like this. What are you hearing? Are they coming any time soon? FURIN: In any situation like this with downed communications, rumor and speculation are the norm. We hear every day that the team will be set up, we'll be able to send patients over there for life- saving and limb-saving surgery. Every day the expectation goes down, the hope, most importantly, of the patients are dashed as there is nowhere to send them for necessary, life-saving surgeries.
COHEN: Is there any hope at all? Is anyone setting up an operating room for these patients at all?
FURIN: I know there is a lot of talk and speculation about it. The only people we've actually seen on the ground doing things are the team from Israel.
COHEN: The team from Israel is building an operating room?
FURIN: Yes. They are building a functioning triage level and surgical field hospital. They are the first ones who will be operating.
COHEN: Thank you, Dr. Jennifer Furin from Harvard medical school.
FURIN: Thank you.
COHEN: And Fredricka, I did want to ad that I did speak with a representative from the Department of Health and Human Services, and she said the people that run that operating room are on the ground, but the equipment isn't. She expects that equipment to be here today.
Fred, I also want to add, and this is an important thing, and I've left it for the end, but this hospital here, the United Nations has said that it needs to leave. This was never meant to be a hospital. They say this is a warehouse. They haven't given a timeline, but they want these patients out of here into field hospitals.
They say this isn't really a hospital that can help them. They want them in hospitals out in other parts of the country where they say they can be helped better. Fredricka?
WHITFIELD: So, Elizabeth, picking up on that then, if they need to make their way to field hospitals, how will they be transported to field hospitals, and how many field hospitals are there that could accommodate them?
COHEN: Fredricka, that's a great question. Last night in anticipation of this request by the U.N. to leave, they did bring 20 patients to a field hospital. They transported them to a field hospital. They got there and the field hospital said we can't take these people, and so they turned right around and brought them back here.
WHITFIELD: OK, and meantime the USS Comfort, a big floating hospital, but we understand that will not make its way to Haiti until well into next week. And surely, they are able to carry out surgeries, et cetera, for all those people.
And we just heard the doctor tell you, 30 percent of the people need surgeries that will die if, what was the timeframe, they don't get surgeries within how long?
COHEN: Right, within the next 24 hours. Dr. Furin is one of the leaders here, and she said out of the 300 patients, 100 of them, she thinks, will die within the next 24 hours if they don't have surgery, and there is no operating room for them to have surgery in.
WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh. That is just too sad. We have to hope for the best that something is going to turn around within the 24 hour period for them.
Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much. Appreciate that.
Haiti's suffering has been compounded by the poverty of its people. So why is the country so bad off even before this earthquake took place? We'll look at Haiti's history.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said thank god, because I was upstairs when that happened. And I get down and see what happened. And I will say to all my family and friends, I'm still alive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So many Haitians trying their best to convey that they are OK, but still looking for loved ones there just four days after that earthquake in Port-au-Prince.
So many have been wondering, what put this country in a position of being the poorest in the western hemisphere, where there is an incredible history, a tapestry that shows this is a country that was very rich on so many levels, then hit such depths of poverty.
J. Brian Page is an anthropology professor at the University of Miami and has spent years studying Haiti. He joins us now from Miami. Good to see you.
J. BRYAN PAGE, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI: Hi, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: So professor, give us an idea, sort of a history lesson in just a couple of minutes. We're talking about a country that has an incredible depth of history, but what people don't know is they are looking at the current day Haiti, which is poor, but it was a very rich nation and rich for many reasons. Why?
PAGE: Two things. First of all, it had very rich land in a tropical environment. And also the owners of the land had the freedom to take away other people's freedom. In other words, they held slaves.
And what Haiti was in the 17th and 18th centuries was essentially a slave meat grinder, that slaves were relatively cheap. They could be used up, and on their backs the wealth of the Creole French settlers could be built.
And so essentially once that condition, it was horrible, the worst in anywhere in the new world, where the enslaving of African populations was very widespread.
WHITFIELD: Which then made it very fertile ground for a slave rebellion, and that created a whole new scenario for Haiti, really the first black independent nation.
PAGE: The only nation ever to form itself from a slave rebellion. That also made it very dangerous and subversive to all of the nations forming in the new world.
WHITFIELD: And that made a great reason for it to celebrate, but it ended up cutting off that trade that helped make this nation so rich, because there were so many countries that said we don't want to trade with you anymore because of this slave rebellion, right?
PAGE: Especially for the United States. The United States didn't give up their slaves for another 60 years after the independence of Haiti. So the United States is very reluctant to have any relations at all.
Interestingly, Haiti also helped foment rebellion in other places. They offered asylum to Simon Bolivar, the liberator of South America, when he was in danger.
WHITFIELD: So people think of the modern day political uprisings, the corruption, and blame that in large part to the poverty that this country is facing today. In the modern day world, is that the root of why this country is so poor, why on average citizens are living on less than a dollar a day?
PAGE: Well, if you think about the legacy of that first 100 years of independence, what happened was that there were never resources put forward to educate the populous, to help them develop the skills necessary to participate in industrial development.
For example, 80 percent to 90 percent illiteracy doesn't make you attractive to big business or big industry. And you still aren't attractive in this day and age because of that same drawback.
WHITFIELD: And now we have this horrible situation of this earthquake which has devastated this country, particularly the capital of this country.
Professor, do you see this as a new springboard, a starting point to help rebuild this nation, not in a structural kind of way, but the amount of money and world efforts that are being put into helping in the relief effort now, do you see long term that this will help rebuild the nation and help build a nation that will be strong?
PAGE: From your mouth to god's ears, that is what one hopes.
The problem is there is so many institutional corruption and disorganization that there are huge barriers. I don't think they are insurmountable.
And one of the real keys is education. I noticed on your program just before this you were talking about setting up field schools and so forth. In many cases they are superior to the schools that had previously been available to Haitian children.
And one experience we have had with Haitians in the United States is they will jump at the chance to get whatever education they can to gain whatever advantage they can in the job market. So I would expect that eagerness on the part of Haitian children in Haiti, and that is a real ray of hope.
The other ray of hope is we have very resilient people in Haiti.
WHITFIELD: Yes, historically very much so.
Professor J. Bryan Page, anthropology professor from the University of Miami, thanks so much for your time. Appreciate that.
PAGE: You're certainly welcome.
WHITFIELD: Sadly, thousands of people are still unaccounted for in Haiti. We'll show you to what length their friends and relatives are going to find them.
WHITFIELD: A look at our top stories right now.
Democrats are in a mad dash to wrap up work on health care reform this weekend, but their 60-vote majority may be in jeopardy. The president and Democratic leaders are trying to help salvage Massachusetts Senate seat for the Democrats.
President Obama is actually expected to head up to Massachusetts tomorrow to campaign for Democrat Martha Coakley. She is locked in a tough battle with Republican Scott Brown to take over the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. A special election is to be held on Tuesday. And Democrats are hoping the president's appearance will give Coakley the edge she needs to win.
President Obama has new thoughts about how to pay the bill for the government's bailout plan. In his weekly address he outlined a proposal to tax banks. His reasoning is simple -- if banks can afford to give their executives millions of dollars in bonuses, they can pay back taxpayers.
Congress must approve the plan. We'll get another check on top stories 20 minutes from now.
WHITFIELD: New York's Little Haiti is desperate for word about relatives back home, and with the fate of so many people still uncertain, Haitian-Americans are understandably on edge.
Our Carter Evans joins us now from Brooklyn where there is a pretty sizable Haitian-American community there.
CARTER EVANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Fred. It's 61,000 Haitians that live here in Brooklyn. And I keep thinking of the three Cs -- comfort, community, and communication, or lack thereof.
First let's start with comfort, and let's go to the Holy Cross Church last night, a special mass to kind of give people some comfort here. They don't have much information, and when they do get it, a lot of it is bad news.
One woman in particular comes to church last night with a picture in her hand of her late son. He died in the earthquake along with the rest of her family.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICOLE JOINVILLE, MOURNER: The house collapsed. So he died, my sister died, my mother died, my niece, 10 years, my niece four years, my cousin, all of my family die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EVANS: So let's talk about the other two Cs now, communication and community. Communication -- Radio Soleil, a local radio station. And what it is doing is rebroadcasting the signal from over the Internet of the only radio station in Haiti that is actually still on the air.
And this is where the community comes in. People are coming to the radio station, giving names and information about family members that they are trying to get in touch with. They're communicating that over to the radio station in Haiti, getting that information out over the air.
And when they get a response back, they of course send it right back here to Brooklyn. It is a slow process, but it's one that is beginning to get information to people and it's very important to keep them informed to keep them feeling better about the situation, because there is not a whole lot they can do. And I think that's part of the frustration out here, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Feeling hopeless and helpless, that is definitely part of the frustration. Carter Evans, thanks so much, in Brooklyn.
The desperate search for missing relatives and friends in Haiti, a look at what some people are doing in other regions of the country to try to get some answers.
JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are back in the NEWSROOM here. I'm Josh Levs. I'm going to tell you the story now of a woman who was told that her loved one in Haiti was dead, and then saw her loved one alive on CNN.
Joining me right now, Talma Joseph. Talma, are you with us? Talma, are you there?
TALMA JOSEPH, SAW COUSIN'S PICTURE ON CNN (via telephone): Yes.
LEVS: OK, Talma, here's what I'd like to do. I'm going to show the clip from the "LARRY KING LIVE" your family was watching last night. You had been told your cousin had died in Haiti, and then all of a sudden this popped up. What happened when you were watching TV last night?
JOSEPH: I was watching TV last night, and then a cousin of my ran into my room and told me, "Talma, Talma, I saw your cousin." I said, what are you talking about? I was watching it, but I wasn't paying attention.
LEVS: Let's go to that picture, actually, let's go to this next clip here. This is the picture that your relatives were talking about. That's her with the pink on her head and she's being fed something?
JOSEPH: Yes. That's my cousin.
LEVS: Tell me what it was like. You heard she was dead and all of a sudden you see her alive on TV.
JOSEPH: Oh, my gosh, tears of joy, happiness. We couldn't believe it, because a couple of hours before that we were told she was buried underneath the debris. So we thought there was no way she was going to make it. We didn't have any hope, so we thought she was gone, until my mom saw the picture of her.
And everybody started crying tears of joy. We didn't know what to do because we don't know where she is. She was staying with a friend of her mom's.
WILLIAMS: And this moment encapsulates so much about communication in Haiti right now. People cannot reach out by phone in the traditional ways. But what you find is so many people are finding out in these roundabout ways.
Now, I want to get your cousin's name right -- Mertha (ph) Monegut (ph), right, right?
LEVS: And you have another picture of her that you sent us, so let's take a look at that so people can see what she usually looks like and how that compares to the photo that you were seeing right there.
That's your cousin, Mertha (ph), right?
JOSEPH: Yes, that's the picture that I posted on CNN iReport, Facebook, everywhere that I could find her. But I didn't receive any lead until this morning when you left me a message.
LEVS: Now Talma talked to me, I understand that after this happen, you found out she was alive, you got a call about now about what she is struggling with physically. Talk to me about this.
JOSEPH: Yes. I received a call from my aunt and she told me that she spoke to her friend staying with her and she is in bad shape. She is praying for her and she doesn't know if she is still going to make it. Actually an hour later my aunt called us back and told us that she was being transferred to a hospital.
LEVS: So she is severely injured I understand?
JOSEPH: Yes. Both of the legs are broken. The picture that I see on CNN, she appears to have a bruise on one of her eyes.
LEVS: This is how people are hobbling to get information about their loved ones; I know you want desperately to reach out to her right now. What is your family doing to try to get to her, try to get her some help?
JOSEPH: Actually, we called my aunt. My aunt is on her way right now with her husband to visit her to find out where exactly she is or to know exactly where she is, what hospital. We have no information right now.
LEVS: It is heart wrenching to see what you're going through. But at least you have this glimmer of hope. Talma talk to me as a Haitian American. I believe you came here when you were 10; you now live in Elma, New York. Talk to me about what it's like for you to be in this situation and see the destruction of the country where you were born and to try to process that from here in the United States.
JOSEPH: Wow, its heart wrenching. Especially looking at those pictures. Seeing it on TV and experiencing it are two different things. I can only imagine what they are going through. But seeing those pictures of all the kids dying, all the corps on the floor and not being able to identify anybody, being buried. It's unexplainable. You want to go, you want to jump in the next plane and go and help, but there is no way.
LEVS: Let me tell everyone if you are just joining us, we are joined by Talma Joseph who was told that her cousin was dead in Haiti, then saw the photo last night on "Larry King Live." That is a photo taken by the Associated Press. They just happened to get a picture of your cousin.
Now you are in this bittersweet situation Talma of feeling some relief that she is alive, and yet now dealing with the fact she is severely injured plus all the feelings you have about the destruction in Haiti there.
WHITFIELD: That is a very tough situation, Josh. We know that sentiment and experience is going to multiply so many times.
Josh Levs, thanks so much we will check back with you.