Foreign aid helps U.S., too By Ken Patterson There are about 800,000 people on anti-retroviral medicine in Zambia. The drugs suppress the effects of

Ken Patterson 2017

Ken Patterson

Foreign aid helps U.S., too

By Ken Patterson

There are about 800,000 people on anti-retroviral medicine in Zambia. The drugs suppress the effects of HIV and prevent it from developing into AIDS. They cost about $100 per year, and they allow parents to work, take care of their children and contribute to their communities. Take the drugs away and their days would be numbered.

The U.S. is a big partner in Zambia’s success. We support Zambia, and many other nations, fill gaps in their funding and provide technical assistance for health, education, agriculture and other building blocks of a stable, advancing nation.

I got to see the impact of our investments in Zambia in February when I traveled there with RESULTS, an advocacy organization working to end poverty. A couple of things struck me during my visit. One was that everyone, literally everyone, has been impacted by HIV/AIDS. There were stories of losing a sibling, parent, child or a friend to AIDS or tuberculosis-related AIDS.

People didn’t really talk about it unless you asked, but back in 2000 it was like the apocalypse — all night long, every night, gravediggers toiled so the dead could be honored at funerals during the day. The coffin business was one of the few thriving enterprises.

But things have changed, due in large part to U.S. assistance. People are alive and thriving, living normal lives, because they now have access to a daily cocktail of drugs.

We visited one of the drug warehouses where boxes are stacked to the ceiling with medicines for HIV, TB and other diseases. It was an awesome sight, knowing that the boxes of pills were the secret ingredient to life for so many. I was proud to find among the items in the warehouse some equipment from Thermo Fisher Scientific, shipped from Asheville. The whole experience made me proud of my nation and my state.

The Zambian people are thankful for U.S. assistance. They know that many are alive because of our help. Those who received their first drugs in the early 2000s acknowledge President George W. Bush as their savior.

Another thing that struck me was the amount of philanthropy in Zambia. So many people give their time and personal resources to care for their communities.

The community health care workers are among the greatest unsung heroes in the world.

They are the cog that keeps the health care machine running in Zambia, and many other developing nations, and nearly all of them are volunteers.

They know their communities, and they give their time visiting homes, identifying health care needs and using the trust they’ve earned to connect community members to vital services at local clinics. Without them, there would be very little connection between communities and health care services.

But I have major concerns that progress on poverty in Zambia and elsewhere is in jeopardy. President Donald Trump’s budget proposes a 30 percent cut to the State Department and international development assistance programs like those we saw in Zambia.

The dollars we provide to partner nations support prenatal care to moms, prevent transmission of HIV between moms and babies, educate children, provide nutritional supplements to poor kids, and help people avoid basic diseases. The investments we make in poor partner nations are small, but they generate hope, save lives and create self-reliance.

Cutting these investments will ration hope and opportunity to fewer people, and destabilize their nations.

Our foreign policy has three components: diplomacy, development and defense.

They work together to keep our nation safe, build partnerships, bolster trade and show who we are as a nation and a people. The president is proposing a very unbalanced approach to our foreign policy, tilting it much too heavily toward defense while starving diplomacy and development.

I hope we can count on North Carolina’s senators and representatives to protect our investments in development assistance. It is the smart and the right thing to do.

Ken Patterson is the director of global grass-roots advocacy for RESULTS. He lives in Asheville, NC. RESULTS is a movement of passionate, committed everyday people. Together they use their voices to influence political decisions that will bring an end to poverty.


paypal donate
facebook skype