In the January issue of Esquire magazine, Penn compares Port-au-Prince to Detroit, saying, "It's not more dangerous, it's not less dangerous."
Penn founded a relief organization in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. He still spends about half his time there.
The two-time Oscar winner says a child with a fever in the U.S. gets medicine, a cold bath, or a trip to the emergency room. In Haiti, he says, parents wait "to see if he's going to die or not."
The January issue of Esquire goes on sale Dec. 18.