WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) issued the following statement for the Congressional Record on the importance of U.S. leadership and investments in global health and development in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak:
"Government and public health officials in the U.S. have started grappling with how to reopen the economy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of this discussion has understandably focused on what we need to do here in the U.S. such as drastically expanding testing capacity and hiring additional personnel to conduct a massive amount of contact tracing. For us to be prepared to prevent outbreaks here at home, however, we also have to think beyond our borders.
"The reality of infectious diseases like COVID-19 is that outbreaks anywhere in the world threaten transmission here in the U.S. The pandemic has upended countries in almost every corner of the world, but the impact on developing countries will be especially devastating. Not only do these countries already have low-resourced health systems but many are facing other challenges caused by conflict, climate change, droughts, migration and displacement. Their ability to prevent, contain, and respond to outbreaks is severely limited, making assistance from the international community critical.
"While the prevalence of COVID-19 in most developing countries remains unknown due to limited testing, the impact of the crisis is already taking its toll. The economic fallout from the pandemic will hit vulnerable populations the hardest; hundreds of millions of people could be pushed into poverty. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization has warned of a looming food crisis caused by significant strains on the global food supply chain. By the end of this year, the number of people on the brink of starvation around the world could double.
"In the short-term, the U.S. must bring significant investments in emergency economic and humanitarian relief to the table. The potential for drastic increases in poverty and widespread famine will foster further instability and displacement. Progress in developing countries to reduce conflict, increase economic opportunity, and promote good governance will be set back. Providing immediate additional resources to combat COVID-19 in other countries will not only alleviate the humanitarian crisis and reduce its potential destabilizing impacts, but it will also help prevent new outbreaks here in the U.S.
"In the long run, the work to prevent future outbreaks and combat the next pandemic is never-ending. The investments we make today in global health and development will help determine our ability to prevent and combat future outbreaks. For decades, unfortunately, this work has been underfunded. We have to increase our funding for global health security to strengthen health systems in developing countries so they are better prepared to contain diseases and prevent outbreaks. Investments in development and economic assistance, global health, and humanitarian relief are also vital for countries to improve their outbreak response and recovery. Efforts to cut these programs and gut key agencies such as USAID, the State Department, and the CDC are short-sighted and harm the long-term health and economic wellbeing of the U.S.
"In the coming months and years, a lot of attention will be given to questions around how the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded and how we prevent and better mitigate future outbreaks. We must use this opportunity to reinforce the value of U.S. global leadership and make the case for strengthened investments in global health and development. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark reminder that these investments are critical to protecting the health, economic, and security interests of the U.S."