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a845: AGRICULTURE, CONSERVATION, AND RURAL ENHANCEMENT ACT OF 2001
AGRICULTURE, CONSERVATION, AND RURAL ENHANCEMENT ACT OF 2001 -- (Senate -
February 08, 2002)
Mr. DeWINE: I believe we certainly have a moral obligation to those in the world suffering at the hands of evil leaders and corrupt governments. We have a moral obligation to the 1.2 billion people in the world who are living on less than $1 a day. We have a moral obligation to the 3 billion people who live on only $2 a day. This kind of poverty is unacceptable and, quite candidly, it is dangerous to us and to the stability of the world. I think it is something we have to work to change. It is in our self-interest that we do so.
The fact is that foreign assistance has had an enormous impact when applied effectively. For example, over the past 50 years, our assistance has helped reduce infant child death rates in the developing world by 50 percent. We also have had a significant impact on worldwide child survival and health promotions, through initiatives, such as vaccinations and school feeding programs.
Agriculture is certainly another area of great success. Today, 43 of the top 50 countries that import American agricultural products have in the past
received humanitarian assistance from the United States. Today, they are our customers. Our investment in better seeds and agricultural techniques over
the past two decades have made it possible to feed an additional 1 billion people throughout the world.
Despite its importance and immeasurable value, our overall foreign affairs budget has been stagnant for the past 20 years. As I said, in real dollars, it has gone down. We currently use only about one-half of 1 percent of our Federal budget for humanitarian assistance. Yet this assistance is absolutely critical for people in war-ravaged, politically unstable,
impoverished nations. The children, the elderly, and the civilian people are not responsible for the political and economic turmoil in their homelands,
but they are the ones who always end up suffering the most.
Right now, increases in foreign assistance could make a very real difference around the world. One example is in our own backyard, and that is in the country of Haiti . I recently returned from a trip to Haiti , where I witnessed the tremendous devastation, destitution, and desperation of that country located less than 2 hours by plane from the shores of Miami.
Haiti remains the poorest country in the hemisphere. Democracy and political stability continue to elude the Haitian people. The already-dire humanitarian conditions of Haiti's 8.2 million people continue, tragically, to deteriorate. Today, less than one-half of their population can read or write. The country's infant mortality rate is the highest, by far, in our
hemisphere. At least 23 percent of the children up to age 5 are malnourished. Only 39 percent of Haitians have access to clean water, and diseases such as measles, malaria, and tuberculosis are epidemic.
Haiti is also suffering from an AIDS crisis--really an epidemic. Roughly 1 out of 12 Haitians is living with HIV/AIDS. This is the highest rate in
the world, outside of sub-Sahara Africa. According to the Centers for Disease Control projections, Haiti will experience up to 44,000 new HIV/AIDS cases this year, and that is at least 4,000 more than the number expected in the United States. We have a population, obviously, a great deal higher than Haiti . They have a population of about 8 million people. Ours is nearly 35
times larger than theirs.
In addition, there are an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 deaths each year in Haiti from AIDS. Already, AIDS has orphaned 163,000 children. That number is expected to skyrocket to between 320,000 to 390,000 over the next 10 years.
Haiti also continues to suffer from an unnecessarily high HIV transmission rate from mother to child. Some of this is easily prevented through proper counseling and medication. Currently, only one clinic in Port-au-Prince provides these critical, lifesaving services.
Indeed, things are bad in Haiti , and they stand to get only worse. Right now there is a great deal of money that the international community is holding up, awaiting reforms to be made, awaiting the Government of Haiti to settle disputes concerning the May 2000 election. I believe it is correct to withhold that money. But what it means is that the only assistance coming from many countries--certainly the only assistance coming from the U.S.--is the purely humanitarian assistance that does not go through the Government.
That purely humanitarian assistance has gone down and down and down. We have taken it down for the last few years. The prospects are that we will take it down again this year. I think that is, quite bluntly, a mistake. It is a mistake for us to continue to reduce this humanitarian assistance. This is not money that is going to the Government of Haiti . This money is going to NGOs, private organizations, charitable groups that are dealing directly with the people of Haiti , who are helping with agricultural problems and challenges and helping them feed their children through school feeding
programs and helping them with the AIDS problem. All of this work is done directly on the ground by people who are making a difference.
I think we should reconsider our position--the position we have seen in the past few years of continuing to ramp down that assistance that goes
directly to these NGOs and to the people of Haiti . I believe we have a moral obligation to stay committed to these people, irrespective of what the Haitian Government does or does not do. The reality is that we need to increase foreign assistance across the board, not just the money that goes to protect the Haitian people but the much-needed aid that reaches all
corners of the developing world. While we as a Nation must project strength, we also must project compassion.
Quite simply, providing humanitarian assistance is the right thing to do. It is also in our national interest to do it.
I yield the floor.