Feeding the world
Tuberculosis previously affected scores of our Arkansas families, but because of excellent treatments, few of us have had recent firsthand experiences.
My first personal experience with TB was with Gueston Pacius. Gueston was a bright young student in Gonaïves, Haiti, who went to Port-au-Prince in the early 1990s to seek his college education. Arriving with no money, no family support, he landed in Cité Soleil, one of the poorest slums in the world.
Gueston built his home with driftwood and cardboard, and he lived there for several years in the most awful squalor of filth and sewage with little to eat (usually beans and rice when available) and no access to health care. When we met him in 1995, he had lost weight to 88 pounds and was infected with widespread tuberculosis. He was fortunate enough to have come to Alabama for continued education, where he also received comprehensive TB treatment and finally, some good nutrition.
In spite of such afflictions and disadvantages, Gueston completed two master's degrees, and for the past 20 years, he has been the development director of the Haiti Christian Development Project (HCDP).
Since 1998, Gueston, formerly a victim of malnutrition and disease, has passionately worked with HCDP to teach agronomy and animal husbandry in Gonaïves. Just a two-hour flight from Miami, our neighbor Haiti, with a population of nearly 11 million, is the fourth most undernourished country in the world.
Yet though we are living in the face of four historic famines right now with more than 20 million on the brink of starvation, there is a spark of light. Though complex, we do know how to address hunger, and we know how to end it.
Since 1990, the United States has led the world in the fight to eradicate extreme poverty, or those living on less than $1.25 a day, and American leadership has helped cut back extreme poverty worldwide by 50 percent! By doing so, we have also led the world in cutting back those living in hunger by 50 percent as well.
Our nation leads the world in global health and development to provide clean water, food, and medications for those living with HIV/AIDS. We also help provide bed nets for families to combat malaria, and vaccines which save the lives of millions of children. By doing all of these things, we have halved the number of child deaths over the last 25 years, and we have done it through spending less than 1 percent of the U.S. budget.
Thanks to critical champions in Congress, including our own Sen. John Boozman, our country has maintained leadership in global health. Congress is currently considering increasing global nutrition funding by the highest level seen in a decade. In 2017 alone, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) reached 28 million children with nutrition programs--in total. This means we have the ability to save the lives of millions, namely living with famine, with this increased funding.
Many Americans understand neither the need nor the amazing progress and influence we have on saving the lives of millions through our foreign assistance.
This is a moment to thank Senator Boozman for his leadership in global health and development, including the importance of increasing food security, especially among conflict nations, for a better, safer world for us all.
David Smith is a cardiologist who directs palliative medicine at Baptist Health-Little Rock. He serves as board chairman and is a founding director of Haiti Christian Development Project.