Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Congress Passes Landmark Bill to Help Orphaned Children

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 / -- Historic legislation, which for the first time presents a comprehensive response to the needs of orphaned children in poor countries, now heads to President Bush for his signature.


Yesterday the U.S. Senate approved H.R. 1409, the Assistance for Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children in Developing Countries Act of 2005, which was the companion bill to S. 350 introduced in February of this year by Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). Since the Senate has approved the House bill, it has been passed by the full Congress and now only awaits approval by the President.


Congress is taking bold action on an issue that has moved the hearts of many Americans: the suffering of millions of children orphaned by the deadly AIDS epidemic and other causes. The bill received strong backing from Global Action for Children, a broad coalition of humanitarian and religious groups. (list at http://www.globalactionforchildren.org ). Grassroots activists in Indiana also gave the bill critical backing.


"This is tremendous news for millions of children in poor countries," said Milly Katana, a Ugandan AIDS activist now visiting the United States. "In my country AIDS has orphaned 1 million children, and they desperately need care and support," she said. Katana is with the Health Rights Action Group and is a member of the Board of Global AIDS Alliance.


"This bill improves our ability to provide assistance to orphans and vulnerable children in developing countries, who otherwise stand to lose generations of educated and trained professionals who can contribute meaningfully to their countries' development," said Senator Lugar today in a press release.


The bill breaks new ground by requiring the Administration to develop a comprehensive strategy for meeting the needs of orphans and vulnerable children. It also establishes the position of Special Advisor for Orphans and Vulnerable Children within the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to better coordinate and provide assistance in support of basic care. When fully funded, the bill will help provide children with basic care and support, educational opportunities, and medical care, including AIDS treatment.


Global Action for Children is a civic-engagement campaign to ensure comprehensive support for orphans and vulnerable children.


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