Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton called on Americans Saturday to dig deep in their pockets for desperately poor Haiti, not just in the coming weeks, but for its long-term recovery after a devastating earthquake.

The two presidents sketched out their vision for a more prosperous and healthy Haitian future than the poor Caribbean nation has ever known.

“We have a chance to do things better than we once did; be a better neighbor than we once were; and help the Haitian people realize their dream for a stronger, more secure nation. But we need more than just support from governments,” the presidents wrote in an op-ed that appeared Saturday on The New York Times Web site.

They noted that 30 percent of Haiti’s population - about three million people - have been affected by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday.

In the first two weeks, private money will be directed to meet the needs of those who are “hurt, homeless and hungry.” But their effort will also focus on the long-term: new and better schools and buildings able to withstand future earthquakes; getting health care and education to the poorest residents, attracting new industries to create jobs and foster economic growth, and the development of clean energy.

“At our best, we can help Haiti become its best,” they wrote.

While the earthquake is a tragedy for Haiti, it has focused the world’s attention on the impoverished nation, they wrote. The Haitian government, Haitians living abroad and countless non-governmental organizations, and many donor nations have a chance to help make the long-term improvements, they added.

Both presidents attended a White House news conference Saturday where President Barack Obama asked them to head private-sector fundraising efforts.

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