AMERICA’S LEADERSHIP NEEDED IN GLOBAL HEALTH
As a doctor, I believe the greatest symbol of American leadership is our investment in global health. Across the world, millions of people are healthier and safer because the United States has improved access to health care. We’ve led the charge in reshaping global health, including delivering care to more than 11 million people living with HIV, reducing malaria cases by one-third and controlling global pandemics like Ebola and Zika.
These investments have translated into historic gains. Access to maternal and child health care has risen; voluntary family planning is now available to millions; healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies has dramatically decreased mortality rates. Since 1990, there has been a 43 percent reduction in maternal deaths, and we have saved the lives of more than 100 million children under 5 years old. These are astounding numbers — due in large part to the leadership of the United States.
But that progress is now under threat. In April, the State Department announced it was immediately cutting off funding to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). This is a major setback to American efforts to help the world’s most vulnerable populations. In 2016, UNFPA received $69 million in funding from the United States. That money supported safe delivery services, family planning and counseling, and programs to combat gender-based violence. The lifesaving care provided by UNFPA goes directly to helping women and girls around the world, and I’ve seen their work firsthand.
In July, I traveled to Jordan with CARE, a leading humanitarian organization that fights poverty in the world’s poorest communities, and I saw the profound impact of American investments in global health. More than 80,000 refugees currently live in Zaatari Refugee Camp — many of them women and girls. Here, UNFPA works with local nongovernmental organizations to provide quality maternal health care and educational services. Thanks to American leadership and funding, more than 7,500 healthy babies have been delivered at the maternity clinic without a single maternal death.
Touring the refugee camp, I was very impressed with the quality of care UNFPA provides, but I was also incredibly proud. When you walk into this small clinic, the American flag stands proud and strong on many of the clinic’s walls. That flag is a symbol of strength and hope for thousands of women who enter the clinic in need of better care for themselves and their children.
I met a 28-year-old woman, Dua’a, who fled Syria with her family after the civil war started in 2011. Dua’a was married at the age of 14 and had no access to reproductive health services until she came to the camp. She experienced 10 miscarriages before receiving the care she needed. Just days before our arrival, she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, but her fate could have been very different if not for the U.N. clinic.
In the coming weeks, the House of Representatives will vote on government funding. The United Nations Population Fund and its partners like CARE are critical in our fight to build a healthier world. I am urging my Democratic and Republican colleagues to fund America’s vital investments in global health. In Zaatari Refugee Camp, it’s a matter of life or death. Eight to 10 newborn babies are safely delivered at the maternity clinic every day, but their future is at risk.
Dua’a is one of countless success stories demonstrating America’s leadership abroad. Given the amazing progress the United States has made in improving global health, we can’t afford to back down. The world needs America to lead. The women and children at Zaatari Refugee Camp — and millions more — are counting on us.