Congressman Smith Honored for His Humanitarian Work in Africa
Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) was honored by The Healey International Relief Foundation (HIRF) and Capital Area Reach Program (Capital Reach) for improving the lives and making significant contributions to the people of Africa and in particular Sierra Leone.
The Awards Reception was held on Wednesday, April 22, 2015 in Washington, D.C. at the Liaison Hotel Rooftop. Both HIRF and Capital Reach conduct humanitarian work in Sierra Leone. The ongoing Ebola crisis has made the groups work urgent and all funds raised from the event will go towards HIRF’s project to rebuild health clinics in Sierra Leone and Capital Reach’s effort to build a much-needed school in Lunsar, Sierra Leone.
Smith received the Humanitarian Impact Award in Healthcare, which recognizes outstanding individuals who dedicate their time to improve the life of individuals and families in Africa and whose accomplishments are consistent with the goals of the Lumberton, N.J.-based Healey Foundation. The group selects a recipient based on humanitarian service defined as beyond the responsibilities of one’s profession, that has helped to improve the welfare of humankind, including significant contributions benefiting Africa.
“It has been my honor to have been able to help set policy for U.S. Government humanitarian response to the crises facing African countries,” said Smith, a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Chairman of its Africa and global health subcommittee, who has worked on many initiatives to assist Africa including the Ebola crisis response and authored H.R. 5710, the Ebola Emergency Response Act.. “For more than 30 years, I have worked with civil society organizations, governments and private sector firms on humanitarian response. Together, we have met challenges ranging from famine–man-made and otherwise, to conflict-caused deprivation to the refusal by governments or rebel groups to allow humanitarian aid to reach those in need.”
The theme of the event was “Rebuilding Sierra Leone’s health care system. Bright futures are built on healthy foundations.” This effort began with the recent opening of the first of what is planned to be 30 health care clinics built by the Healey Foundation to serve vulnerable rural populations throughout the country. The ribbon-cutting for the HIRF’s health clinic in St. Stephen’s Amputee Village was held on March 21 in Newton, Sierra Leone. The clinic will provide much needed primary care to the village of 300 people and the surrounding population of 24,000 located in the Western region of Sierra Leone 24 miles east of Freetown, which was considered an “Ebola hot zone.”
The reception was hosted by Taylor Kinzler, Miss Massachusetts 2012, and featured a musical performance by Sierra Leone singer Daddy Rhymes. Event partners who have made this reception possible are the Viking Yacht Company in New Gretna N.J., McGuireWoods, Tzu Chi Foundation and Brother's Brother Foundation. Sen. Tom Harkin and Mrs. Philomena Yumkella were also honored at the event.
Smith gave recognition to the Healey Foundation, Capital Reach and the other honorees, and thanked everyone who works to improve the future of the continent.
“You who undertake the job of serving the needs of Africans who require humanitarian assistance deserve all the kudos that come your way,” Smith said. “It is, therefore, altogether appropriate that you honor those who have given of their time, talent and treasure to help others in need. I, too, am certainly honored with this award, and promise to continue to work in the House Africa Subcommittee for a better future for Africa.”
Smith has traveled to such troubled African hot spots as Darfur and Nigeria to promote human rights. He held three hearing on the Ebola threat to West Africa, in Liberia and Sierra Leone—where more than two-thirds of all Ebola cases and over three-quarters of all Ebola-related deaths have been reported. He ordered an emergency congressional hearing in August 2014 featuring Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, as well as the U.S. State Department, and USAID. He held a second hearing on Sept. 17, 2014, featuring the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, USAID, and the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. A third Ebola hearing was held Nov. 18.
Smith has also held numerous hearings on health threats around the world, including hearings on tropical diseases earlier this month and in June 2013 and another on “Superbugs” in April 2013.
A long-time advocate for peace, human rights and progress in Africa, Smith authored HR 5656, “The Global Food Security Act,” to help prevent starvation and famine, and reduce hunger and malnutrition by enabling countries to feed their own people. The House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation in December to address global hunger and help the world’s poorest countries develop better agriculture. The measure was not passed by the Senate.