Rep. Bera Leads Special Order on Importance of U.S. Global Leadership During COVID-19
Rep. Ami Bera, M.D. (D-CA) joined Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) on April 28 in leading a virtual Special Order to highlight the importance of U.S. global leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are the remarks as submitted.
As a doctor, I’m proud that the United States has been a leader in global health. Around the world, millions of people are healthier and more safe because of the efforts of the United States. Through smart and strategic investments in the State Department and USAID, we have led the international fight against diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. We should all be proud of the far-reaching impact of our global health, development and humanitarian assistance programs.
Several decades of leadership and investment in global health have not only saved the lives of people across the world, but have proved vital to protecting the health, security, and economic interests of Americans within our own borders. In our interconnected world, it can take 36 hours for a virus to travel from a remote village to all six continents. The sooner we act to contain a public health emergency abroad, the safer our citizens are back home.
The urgent need to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and protect our constituents has reinforced the importance of contributing to global health challenges abroad. Since originating in China in December 2019, the virus has quickly spread to 170 countries and has now reached over 200,000 deaths worldwide.
The United States has been hit particularly hard. With over 50,000 reported deaths, the pandemic is putting significant strain on our first responders and health systems. States are beginning to make the difficult decision whether to lift stay-at-home orders in hopes of jumpstarting the economy.
But no matter how successful we are in fighting the pandemic here at home, we will never defeat it unless other parts of the world are equipped to prevent outbreaks from occurring in the first place and to contain them when they do occur. Left unaddressed globally, COVID-19 will find its way back to the U.S.
Before the virus hit the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that a staggering 70 percent of countries were underprepared to prevent, detect, and respond to a public health emergency. Many nations, particularly in the developing world, aren’t equipped to deal with COVID-19 or future pandemics. Far too many countries suffer from weak health systems, with challenges such as unsafe water and inadequate sanitation tools to lack of health centers altogether.
Other nations are reeling from years of conflict, natural disasters or other humanitarian conflicts, doing their best to support inadequate health systems already operating well below capacity. COVID-19 does not recognize borders. It doesn’t know the difference between someone back in my district and one of the over 65 million forcibly displaced persons in the world.
The secondary economic and food shortages have hit us hard here in the U.S. and we in Congress are doing our best to address them. The predictions for the future around the world are bleak – the World Food Program recently estimated that by the end of 2020 the number of people around the world who are starving could double, reaching 265 million people.
All these risk factors around the world only increase the likelihood of this virus reemerging at our doorstep. They also leave us exposed to future public health threats.
Now, more than ever, the U.S. must continue to lead on global health. As Congress works towards additional funding and response efforts to fight this global pandemic, it’s critical that our actions include funding to fight COVID-19 around the world.
Decades of U.S. global leadership in foreign assistance has shown us that smart and strategic investments are critical to protecting the homeland. Our efforts have defended the safety of our nation and saved countless lives. I ask my colleagues to join me in calling for the prioritizing of a U.S.-led global response to combatting coronavirus. If we don’t keep one eye abroad, we unnecessarily leave our families, friends, and neighbors at risk.