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Presidents Clinton, Bush Pledge to Lead Fundraising Efforts for Haiti

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Saturday: President Obama speaks as former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush listen in the Rose Garden at the White House. (AP)

President Obama, joined by his predecessors, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, said Saturday the two former presidents will lead a major fundraising effort for the victims of the devastating earthquake in  Haiti that has killed tens of thousands and sparked fears of a public health disaster.

"Presidents Bush and Clinton will help the American people to do their part, because responding to disaster is the work of all of us," Obama said from the White House Rose Garden. "In these difficult hours, America stands united."

People can donate to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund online by clicking here to visit the fund's site.

Obama said his decision to tap the pair was inspired by the relief effort that Clinton and George H.W. Bush led after the 2004 tsunami that struck Asia. 

"That effort raised substantial resources for the victims of that disaster -- money that helped saved lives, delivered aid and rebuilt communities," Obama said. "And that's exactly what the people of Haiti need right now."

Bush, who was criticized for what some perceived as a slow response to Hurricane Katrina, praised Obama for his "swift and timely response to the disaster." He said the best way to help the earthquake victims is to send money.

"I know a lot of people want to send blankets or water," Bush said. "Just send your cash. One of the things the president and I will do is make sure your money is spent wisely."

Clinton said they are committed to the effort for the long run. 

"I believe before this earthquake Haiti had the best chance to escape its history," he said. "I still believe that. But it's going to take a lot of help and a long time".

The Red Cross has estimated 45,000 to 50,000 people were killed in Tuesday's magnitude-7.0 earthquake. While workers are burying some in mass graves, countless bodies remain unclaimed in the streets and the limbs of the dead protrude from crushed schools and homes.

A third of Haiti's 9 million people may be in need of aid. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the World Food Program was providing high-energy biscuits and ready-to-eat meals to around 8,000 people "several times a day."

"Obviously, that is only a drop in the bucket in the face of the massive need, but the agency will be scaling up to feed approximately 1 million people within 15 days and 2 million people within a month," he said.

The effort to get aid to the victims has been stymied by blocked roads, congestion at the airport, limited equipment and other obstacles. U.N. peacekeepers patrolling the capital said public anger was rising and warned aid convoys to add security to guard against looting.

The World Health Organization has said eight hospitals in Port-au-Prince were destroyed or damaged, severely curtailing treatment available for the injured.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.