At a recent town hall meeting in El Paso, Texas’ Representative for the 16th District, Congressman Beto O’Rourke, spoke about the critical importance of protecting deployed military personnel from malaria. He also touched upon the efforts of the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign after a constituent and local Nothing But Nets champion, Dominic Dieguez, posed a question regarding the Congressman’s efforts to protect service members from this deadly disease.
“I want to make sure that wherever we are deploying – over 140 countries and on almost every continent on the face of the planet – that whatever the unique conditions are, our troops and service members have the protections they need,” stated Congressman O’Rourke.
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Readiness, Congressman O’Rourke then noted the importance of safeguarding the health of deployed military personnel and committed to bring the issue to the subcommittee’s attention.
This topic is especially important in Congressman O’Rourke’s district, as TX-16 is home to the Fort Bliss Army base, the largest employer in the district with over 41,000 employees. This issue also hits close to home for Nothing But Nets champion Dominic, whose stepdad is a retired lieutenant colonel based out of Fort Bliss.
Dominic and Congressman O’Rourke are both well aware that malaria is a pressing national security issue that demands our attention; the Department of Defense has named malaria as the #1 public health threat to deployed military personnel. Futhermore, the Naval Medical Research Center’s research has determined that “…more person-days were lost among U.S. military personnel due to malaria than to bullets during every military campaign fought in malaria-endemic regions during the 20th century”.
Dominic’s question at last week’s town hall wasn’t the first time that Congressman O’Rourke has heard from passionate Nothing But Nets champions. Just six months ago, a group of constituents met with Congressman O’Rourke during the annual Nothing But Nets Summit on Capitol Hill. Since then, Congressman O’Rourke has traveled with President Barack Obama, who himself encouraged the Congressman to learn more about Nothing But Nets and how the U.S. government is investing in programs like the President’s Malaria Initiative and Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to help end malaria for good.