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Speech by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), July 24, 2001
Mr. Chairman, I rise to support the McGovern, Hoekstra, Pelosi, Morella, Jackson-Lee amendment.

Mr. Chairman, if I might have the attention of the House, this is an important debate because I think the American people are trying to understand just where the tension is between those of us who are interested in maternal-child health and immunization and the opponents of the bill.

First of all, let me say, Mr. Chairman, that just a couple of days ago the White House had Youth Day on Saturday, opening up the White House to thousands of youth who came to the United States Capitol, including Boy Scouts, who many of us see walking throughout the Capitol, who are here for the Jamboree to be held in Virginia.

I mention that because we in America are interested in promoting healthy children. Therefore, we have emphasized in preventative health millions of dollars to immunize our children. With that in mind, this is what this legislation is about. It is the capability worldwide to ensure that there are healthy children and healthy mothers, to ensure that there is prenatal care as it relates to nutrition, and to ensure that there is immunization.

Let me juxtapose those needs of saving lives of children, of providing the nutritional needs through the foreign operations bill, to what this amendment does. This amendment takes only $100 million out of a $2 billion pot.

This does not label those of us who support this amendment as antidrug enforcement or not understanding the drug issue. What we do understand is that America has been fighting drugs in Mexico and in Colombia and places throughout the world without a lot of success. We realize that we have not placed as much emphasis on treatment and bringing down the desire.

This is all about supply. I heard a good friend and colleague mention that we are trying to take money out of police operations and other operations as it relates to drug enforcement. That is absolutely a misinterpretation of our amendment. All we are doing is taking $100 million, which may be taken out of the foreign military aspect of this drug effort, out of a $2 billion line item.

So, Mr. Chairman, let me emphasize what we have been able to accomplish with assistance on the idea of child nutrition.

If a child is not killed by measles, it may cause blindness, malnutrition, deafness or pneumonia. It is possible to save millions of children per year just by increasing immunization rates from 75 percent to 90 percent and by assuring access to essential nutrients, such as vitamin A, which increase resistance to disease and infection.

In developing nations we are finding that children are dying of the normal childhood diseases which here in America children do get but they survive because of immunization. Annually, immunizations avert 2 million childhood deaths from measles, neonatal tetanus, and whooping coughs, which if we travel to the developing nations we will find those diseases devastating to children.

The success of these programs in the world's poorest regions is even more striking when one considers that the vaccination rate in the United States only reached 78 percent, 78 percent in 1998. Unfortunately, immunization rates are not improving everywhere. Coverage in sub-Saharan Africa has decreased. Thirty percent of children still do not receive their routine vaccinations, and 30 million infants; and measle infection rates have improved in the last 10 years, but there are still 30 million cases of measles.

We must reduce hunger and malnutrition, which contributes to over one-half of the childhood deaths throughout the world. We can do so through these child and maternal health programs. Almost 150 million children are malnourished. We have watched the stories in Sudan, in Ethiopia, in other war-torn countries.

I believe the most important aspect of this debate is for us not to be considering that we are killing the drug enforcement program in parts around the world, including Colombia. That is not the case. We are asking for a small, minute number of dollars to be able to save millions and millions of children.

I believe this is a fight worthy of its name. I am delighted to be on this amendment. I have an amendment that I had intended to offer, but I believe this debate is so important that we need to focus on the juxtaposing of what we are standing for here today, saving lives, as opposed to the depleting of a $2 billion pot.

Mr. Chairman, I am a cosponsor of this amendment. I ask support for this amendment. I will consider whether or not I will withdraw my amendment that will come subsequently. This is an important issue.

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