Today I did something I never dreamed possible. As a representative of the world’s poorest of the poor, I lobbied on Capital Hill. If you asked me two years ago if I would ever find myself here as an advocate for global and human rights, I would have laughed it all away saying “you’re dreaming”. Yet, here I am. Today I did it. I gave a voice to the millions of voiceless people dying and suffering around the world.
Over the last three days I’ve been here in our nation’s capital attending the RESULTS International Conference on behalf of the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life initiative (a program that provides life-saving vaccines to the most impoverished countries in the world). Shot@Life has partnered with RESULTS as our missions are the same. We are fighting to end world hunger and poverty that is making millions of people die each year and live in needless suffering.
So many people have asked me why do I care? They’ve said that of course world poverty is a terrible, tragic problem that impact so many but do you really think that YOU can make a difference?
After the last three days and especially today on Capital Hill, my answer is yes. We can.
Photo above of the Shot@Life champions attending the RESULTS conference before our big day lobbying on Capital Hill.
We all have a voice. We all have a stake. Let’s use it! So many people around the world do not live in a free country where they have the power to meet with their Members of Congress and let their voice and message be heard. Yet we do. Why aren’t more people doing it?
Yesterday I met my idol. Jeffrey Sachs, a world-renowned economist and tireless worker on the end of global poverty and suffering spoke at our conference at RESULTS. What Jeffrey Sachs as well as a handful of extremely passionate, inspirational speakers and workers on global poverty continued to say was that we are at a pivotal point in American foreign policy. A crossroads in the world today. We have the knowledge and tools on how to effectively end poverty and the countless, needless deaths and suffering of millions of people around the world. Yet we just need the means.
What astonished me is that so many Americans do not know that our total spending on ALL Foreign Aid is less than 1% of our GDP. Less than 1%! It is astounding!
The United States government has been instrumental in providing amazing leadership and funding for several key areas that help end the misery of the poorest of the poor by developing critical antiretroviral treatments for HIV/AIDS and by reducing preventable childhood deaths from 40,000 children A DAY (back in the 1980s) to 20,000 children a day now. We’ve help to lift millions of people predominately in Sub-Saharan Africa out of the brink of poverty. And, we’ve kept them alive so there are not so many orphans, victims to the curse of HIV/AIDS.
Yet, as Jeffrey Sachs said, “We can’t stop now”. Providing the required funding to end poverty and unnecessary deaths in the world’s poorest countries is “The right thing to do. The moral thing to do”.
Why so many people in this world just say “yes, that is so terrible” and then look the other way represents the dehumanization of mankind itself. Don’t we want a world for all? Don’t we want everyone on this planet to live in dignity and have access to safe drinking water, life-saving vaccines, food, health services and life-saving medications to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic as well as Tuberculosis.
As Jeffrey Sachs eloquently pointed out, so many Americans fail to understand that everything in this world is connected. The economy, our safety, the war on terror and the environment. Everything we fund or do not fund in terms of global health impacts everything else, including us. If we loose this moment in time and do not receive adequate funding to fulfill our promise to the Global Fund, we will face an enormous setback in the spectacular progress we’ve made towards fighting needless suffering around the world. Not only is this the right thing to do, it is the moral thing to do. We cannot live in a dehumanized worth that doesn’t respect the basic right of mankind’s right to life.
We are at a profound point in time in American politics and the world. Real, amazing change can be made. An end of the HIV/AIDS pandemic IS possible. The end of unnecessary childhood deaths is real. But without standing up, using our voice and letting these critical issues be heard, then we may lose the opportunity to create a more peaceful world with less suffering. There still remains hope. We just need to ensure it continues.