Ebola Virus & Anti-Hunger Bills Passed by Key House Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The  House Foreign Affairs Committee today approved two key humanitarian aid bills authored by Rep. Chris Smith – one to help contain and better treat Ebola at points of origination overseas and a second bill to combat world hunger by enhancing agricultural and nutrition activities in poor countries.  The adoption of both bills at the full committee level improves the chances that each bill will be considered by the full congress before the end of this year.

“I am proud to have introduced H.R. 5656, the Global Food Security Act, and to have the support of co-sponsors across the aisle,” Smith said. “This important legislation will help provide a long-term solution to global hunger by authorizing a national food security program coordinated by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) known as Feed the Future.  This program strengthens nutrition, especially for children during that critical first 1000 day-window, from conception to the child’s second birthday, and also teaches small-scale farmers techniques to increase agricultural productivity, thereby helping nations achieve food security – something that is in the national security interest of the United States as well.”

Smith also noted that the legislation is “fiscally-responsible, as helping countries become agriculturally self-sufficient should lead to a reduction in the amount of money we spend on emergency food aid.”

Over 800 million people around the world suffer from chronic hunger. The Smith bill, co-sponsored by Democrat Betty McCollum, coordinates the efforts of 11 government agencies in improving basic nutrition and reducing hunger within the poorest of 19 priority countries. It promotes women’s economic empowerment and building the capacity of local small scale farmers.

Begun by President Bush and continued by President Obama, the current U.S. food security program has been funded by Congress in annual appropriations legislation, but without official statutory authorization. The Smith bill would permanently codify and authorize such efforts and help marshal a worldwide commitment to tackling hunger and malnutrition. USAID will be the lead U.S. agency, in coordination with the Department of Agriculture, the Department of State, the U.S. African Development Foundation and the other agencies.

The Foreign Affairs Committee also passed another key Smith legislative initiative on the Ebola crisis.

Smith, who chairs the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Global Health, has held three hearings on the West African Ebola epidemic since August – the most recent one on Tuesday, November 18 – on the extent of this epidemic and the U.S. government response. The unprecedented epidemic has killed more than 5,000 people, with another 14,000 people known to be infected.  

“In previous hearings, we were told that if the rate of infection continued at the level it was at the end of summer, we could have 1.4 million Ebola cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone by the end of January,” Smith said. “Due to the robust programming of our government in Liberia, the rate of new infections there is slowing measurably, and we may avoid this dire prediction.”

H.R 5710 – the Ebola Emergency Response Act – lays out the steps needed for the U.S. government to continue to effectively help fight the West African Ebola epidemic, especially in Liberia, the worst-hit of the three affected countries. The bill supports staffing and training health care personnel, establishing fully functional treatment centers, conducting education campaigns among populations in affected countries and developing diagnostics, treatments and vaccines. It confirms U.S. policy in the anti-Ebola fight and provides necessary authorities for the Administration to continue or expand anticipated actions in this regard.

“Unless we can prevent the further increase in Ebola cases in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, there will be increasing pressure on the United States and the rest of the international community to combat this threat once it reaches our shores,” Smith said.

At today’s committee mark-up, Smith also offered a substitute amendment to H.R. 2901, the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act, enhancing local capacity for critical water projects, including safe drinking water.

Smith has spearheaded similar U.S. international, health and nutritional initiatives throughout his career dating back to legislation he successfully offered in 1985 to restore and double the commitment to the then Child Survival Fund program to protect children who would otherwise die from preventable, curable diseases.

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