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Occurrences in the Congressional Record

Entry Title Date
The Growing Crisis Of Africa’S Orphans August 1, 2014
Christopher Smith, R-NJ
"Mr. Speaker, a hearing that I convened recently in my subcommittee addressed a very important humanitarian crisis: the more than fifty million children orphaned on the continent of Africa. Indeed, to put this in perspective, as one of our witnesses, Shimwaayi Muntemba, pointed out, with such a number, the orphans of Africa, if grouped together in a single country, would be the fourth largest country in all of Africa—after Nigeria, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The factors contributing to this crisis are varied, starting with war and civil unrest, which have displaced millions—wars that have led to the deaths of parents and other adult relatives, leaving children to fend for themselves. Or sometimes children are separated from their parents in a mad flight for sanctuary, never learning if their mothers and fathers are alive or dead. They may never know if they are orphaned in reality, or if both parents turn out to have survived and are alive in a refugee camp somewhere else. Such parents, too, agonize over what ever happened to their children. Other children are indirect victims of HIV/AIDS, which has wreaked such devastating havoc on the continent, or other diseases. They could have lost one or both parents to this or some other dread disease. Often being forced into the role of the primary caretaker of younger siblings, their childhood innocence is ended by the burdens of adult responsibility. As with many of the humanitarian crises that confront the continent, there is a big picture aspect to this one, one which we as Congress certainly need to address. There are important strategic implications of so many children and adolescents left without fathers or mothers. We have all heard of the scourge of child soldiers, how orphaned children are recruited and brutalized, themselves turning into remorseless killers. Terrorist groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army, under the rapacious warlord Joseph Kony, actively recruit child soldiers. And if humanitarian reasons are not enough to compel Congress to rally behind the efforts to address the issue of Africa’s orphans by USAID and countless charitable organizations, many of them faith-based, then strategic concerns and the effect this has on stability throughout the region, should be reason to sit up and take notice of this tragedy. But behind every statistic about orphaned children, behind the pie charts and graphs, there is also a portrait in miniature: a lonely child who is left without a mother or a father, perhaps dealing each night with the pangs of hunger, or just seeking a place where one can lay one’s head down in safety until the morning comes. That child awakes to forage and fend for another day. Behind every statistic, there is a young boy or girl who has to deal with the sense of abandonment, or with the trauma of having seen parents killed before his or her eyes. There is a little soul, a young person, whose inherent dignity has been scarred in a world itself wounded, where there is so much pain, suffering and darkness. These children are in need of love and compassion, of simple needs being met. Those who do find loving homes and families are truly the lucky ones. One remedy for this crisis is inter-country adoption, which sometimes brings children from Africa to our shores to provide them with loving homes. This is, of course, only a partial remedy, because for every child who is given a loving home, there are many more for whom there is never will be such a refuge. At best, they may end up in an institutional orphanage, which is a topic fraught with controversy. While the best ones, again often faith based, help address the developmental and educational needs of children, the worst may abet trafficking. In some cases, such institutions do not even shelter orphans per se, but rather children who are placed there by parents who think that their children will get better education and nutrition than what they themselves can provide. Clearly, such institutions can never provide the type of love that a father and a mother, along with any siblings, can give. An issue that was addressed in the hearing was the role of inter-country adoption in helping address, at least in part, the crisis of orphans. Some of the testimony was critical of the role of our State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. Such testimony needs to be heard, for we can, and we must, do better. We also heard about an adoption issue that has received a lot of attention on Capitol Hill and was the topic of a resolution authored by my good friend and colleague Collin Peterson of Minnesota, which I am happy to say was passed by the House, after being marked up by my subcommittee and then the Foreign Affairs Committee. Last year, the Democratic Republic of the Congo suspended the issuance of exit permits for Congolese children adopted by foreign parents—impacting hundreds of U.S. families. The suspension means that Congolese children adopted by American parents cannot leave the country to go to their new homes—even though the parents have been officially declared the legal guardians under Congolese law. What’s more, despite the exit permit suspension, Congolese courts have continued processing new adoptions, leading to a backlog of adopted children who are unable to leave the country. More than 900 American families are caught up in varying stages of this adoption limbo—breaking hearts. This is a deplorable situation for these children, and for their distraught families. Indeed, we will hear about this from one such family that has been impacted, as well as an advocate for families that have been impacted. Finally, I also want to say a word to those parents who have endured not only burdens that are financial, but ones that are primarily emotional, separated from the children that they have voluntarily welcomed into their lives. Your hardship and pain is deeply noted by my colleagues and I, as well as our staff members, many of whom have worked not only on passing Congressman Peterson’s resolution, but also have pushed our State Department and the Government of the DRC to resolve this issue. Please continue to persevere, and do not give up hope! We remain in your corner."
Rwanda June 26, 2014
Robert Menendez, D-NJ
"Also in June, Human Rights Watch, HRW, an organization that has worked on Rwanda for more than 20 years and documented the 1994 genocide, was accused by the Ministry of Justice of political bias and collaboration with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, FDLR, some of whose members participated in the genocide and committed horrific human rights abuses in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC. These accusations come in the wake of a May HRW critique of the Rwandan Government’s actions, including forced disappearances, and discount HRW’s constant critique of the FDLR’s egregious human rights record in the DRC. HRW, the last independent international organization based in Kigali speaking out against human rights abuses, appears at increasing risk of not being able to do its job, and perhaps even of being shut down."
Congo June 26, 2014
Richard Durbin, D-IL
"Another leader in the electronics industry has been Motorola Solutions, headquartered in Schaumberg, IL. Motorola Solutions emerged early as a company dedicated to cleaning up its supply chain, and to do so, it helped establish Solutions for Hope, dedicated to developing a “closed-pipe” supply chain. In the Rubaya region of the North Kivu province in the DRC, it has done just that. Tantalum mines in Rubaya were directly funding the leader of the vicious M23 rebel group, Bosco Ntaganda. Through persistent effort, diligent monitoring and the banding together of other likeminded corporations, those 17 mines are now certified conflict-free, and most importantly, M23 has laid down its arms and Bosco Ntaganda stands before the International Criminal Court to face charges for the atrocities he and his comrades committed."
Floor Action December 15, 2013
Michael Enzi, R-WY
"One of my constituents, Wesley from Jackson, WY, wrote to me with a great example of some of the unintended consequences of this law and its effect on small business. Here’s what he had to say: “I am writing to you as member of the Wyoming small business community to report on the implementation of an add-on to the Dodd-Frank act. Specifically section 1502, conflict minerals. This legislation is imposing a very severe burden especially on small businesses in the tech sector. I and others struggling to conform to the new requirements have found that they are usually impossible to meet in either the spirit or the letter of the law. I will explain. Section 1502 requires as I understand that publicly traded American companies must certify that their products do not contain conflict minerals—minerals obtained in the DRC—a noble goal indeed. The basic problem is that in practice, this certification is nearly impossible to meet. We are a small private company and are not explicitly subject to the regulation. However we have received numerous requests for these certifications from our (publicly traded) clients, which means that for them to meet the regulation, we must do so as well, and on down the line. Attempting to fulfill these requirements in order to keep our business will occupy 100s of man hours this year that we don’t have. This chain of requirements goes all the way to the raw material suppliers, where the ore originates. This is perhaps hundreds of levels in the chain for us. For the vast majority of materials we would want to purchase, our suppliers (of finished parts) cannot provide the certification, which means that we cannot provide it to our clients, which means that they will not buy from us. It is not possible for any honest firm to actually meet the requirements, because it is not possible to buy certified parts in many cases. For example we purchase resistors, which are purchased from large wholesalers and may come from many different vendors. Some of these vendors are overseas, and will not provide the certification even though the products are probably conflict-free. This means that the wholesaler must either lie to certify his product to us, or provide a certification that says “we don’t know the status of our parts but are looking into it”. We must then do the same to our clients, and on up the chain. At no point in this process is it possible for an honest citizen to actually know the conflict status of their materials. We have received boilerplate “we don’t know” certificates from nearly every vendor we have asked for certification, and this is happening all across the industry. No one can provide a real certificate: if anyone along the supply chain is foreign-owned, the chain of certification usually ends there. Nearly everything we would want to use in our products has some components that are foreign, and not certifiable. I would suggest that the burden of proof should be confined to companies that purchase the raw materials from smelters. At this level of the supply chain it would be possible to actually verify one’s sources, but for thousands of small to large businesses across the nation, this is simply a severe paperwork burden which does not actually serve to meet the intended goal. Please let us get back to our work.”"
The U.S. Contribution To The Fight Against Malaria May 21, 2013
Christopher Smith, R-NJ
"It is also important to note the extent to which the prevalence of malaria is concentrated. Eighty percent of malaria deaths occur in just 14 countries and almost 80% of cases occur in 17 countries. Over 40% of malaria deaths occur in two countries—the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, and 40% of malaria cases are in the DRC, Nigeria, and India."

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