- The Washington Times - Monday, February 7, 2000

The threat of disease spreading to the United States from abroad, as well as compassion for millions who needlessly die of preventable or curable diseases in the Third World, is behind a new move to double U.S. aid for global health to $2 billion.

President Clinton proposed the increases in his State of the Union address last month and they will be introduced as a bill in the House this week by Rep. Joseph Crowley, New York Democrat.

Mr. Crowley's Queens district was hit by the deadly West Nile encephalitis virus last year spread by birds after most likely being imported into the United States via a New York airport.

"Over 10 million children [around the world] under the age of 5 die from preventable causes," said Mr. Crowley last week at a Capitol Hill briefing.

"Seventeen million people die annually of infectious diseases, 1 million of which are preventable. The legislation will seek to make global health a priority of the U.S. government."

The proposal would increase funding:

* For child survival, from $300 million in 1999 to $525 million in 2000.

* For maternal health, from $50 million to $150 million.

* For family planning (with no money going to abortion), from $410 million to $610 million.

* For HIV and AIDS, from $225 million to $500 million.

* For fighting infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, from $114 million to $314 million.

A spokesman for Rep. Sonny Callahan, Alabama Republican and chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, said that increasing cash for child survival would win Republican support.

"Sonny Callahan supports the child-survival account and if he had his druthers, he'd like to see more money go there," said Jo Bonner, his spokesman. "We need to look at the requests and see if they come under the umbrella of child survival."

Mr. Crowley is seeking support from Republicans on the Hill.

"Last year, we debated debt relief and were able to reduce the burden for a lot of underdeveloped countries," said Chris McCannell, chief of staff for Mr. Crowley. "This is the year we hope to see the United States be a leader in promoting health worldwide."

Working with Mr. Crowley to formulate the international health policy is the Global Health Council (GHC) an amalgam of groups such as the American Medical Association, major drug companies and relief agencies.

The GHC President Nils Daulaire said that after years of foreign-aid cuts it is time to attack world health problems.

"With large federal budget surpluses this year and a booming U.S. economy, now is the time to increase spending on world health," said Mr. Daulaire, formerly the senior U.S. international public health official at the Agency for International Development (AID).

"This legislation would substantially increase U.S. support for child welfare."

He noted that new bacteria and viruses that are created through mutations anywhere in the world take only two weeks to spread to the United States due to the increased density of population and rapid international communications.

He spoke of the increased threat of epidemics from diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis strains that become resistant to treatment due to improper use of antibiotics.

In poor countries, patients often take insufficient amounts of a drug to fully kill off an infection, leaving the surviving bacteria to form even more potent forms of the illness.

AID Administrator J. Brady Anderson spoke last week in support of the bill, saying that "child survival should be a central focus of U.S. policy."

"Infant child mortality in developing countries is still 10 times the rate in the U.S. In some areas [around the world], complacency has led to a slowing of progress [and] drops in immunization rates."

Mr. Anderson said that in Indonesia "vitamin A deficiencies reappeared with the economic crisis."

Mr. Crowley's spokesman said that while Mr. Clinton's State of the Union address included no specific cash figures, he did call for additional funding for AIDS and child survival and he spoke of the threats from infectious diseases.

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