U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia
at the Ethio-American Doctors Fund 4th Annual Conference
Tikur Anbesa Specialized Hospital, Addis Ababa
July 8, 2019
(As prepared for delivery)
Good morning, and for some of you, welcome — or welcome back — to Ethiopia.
Thanks very much for this chance to spend a bit of time with you.
All of us are in Ethiopia at a very interesting time; but then again, I don’t think there’s ever an un-interesting time in Ethiopia.
You’re no doubt aware of the fatal attacks that took place on June 22 in Bahir Dar and Addis Ababa.
I want to express sincere condolences on those attacks, which targeted not only the individual victims, with whom I had the chance to work closely; and which targeted not only the important Ethiopian institutions they represented; but which also targeted, I would assert, the best interests of this country.
There’s a lot of flux in Ethiopian politics, and Ethiopian life, at present.
And there is, as there will always be in Ethiopia, a diversity of strong views regarding what’s going on.
The United States Government’s view is clear: we fully support Ethiopia as it pursues political and economic reforms that we believe represent the surest path to Ethiopia’s prosperity, political inclusiveness, and long-term stability.
And whether others agree with this view or not, we strongly feel that violence has no valid or constructive role to play in Ethiopia’s advancement, or in the expression of Ethiopian grievances, and we therefore feel strongly that those who perpetrate or condone such violence deserve no support.
The United States will continue its support for every element of Ethiopia’s government and society who are working for their country’s inclusive, prosperous, unified, peaceful, and stable future.
But the United States also understands that there are limits to what we can do, and that there are some things that only Ethiopians can do.
And I would suggest that one of the things Ethiopia needs, and only Ethiopians can do, is to heal.
As medical professionals, you’ll understand the concept of healing far better than most, and not just in the narrow medical sense.
As you pursue your engagement in support of Ethiopia, I hope you’ll promote not only the healing and harmony of Ethiopian bodies, but the healing and harmony of Ethiopian society as well.
I’m no doctor, and perhaps my greatest gift to the world is that I never tried to become one.
But I’ve always found the oath you take – the Hippocratic Oath – to be a wonderful thing: an extraordinarily human expression of humanity and of the importance of service, and a message that has relevance and resonance far beyond the medical profession.
And I like to think that the Oath, in its fullest expression, is motivating your presence here today.
As such, I imagine you’re recalling the Oath’s emphasis on the art, as well as the science, of what you do, and the great value it places in “warmth, sympathy, and understanding.”
And I imagine you’re motivated by your standing not just as medical professionals, but also, to quote the Oath, as a “member of society, with special obligations to all fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.”
I hope so, because in this time and place, Ethiopia needs all of you to take the most expansive view possible of the values that underlie the Hippocratic Oath.
Because in this time and place, Ethiopia needs your healing spirit as much as it needs your healing hands.
And that’s why I’m so happy to be with you this morning, and so deeply inspired by your presence here.
I’ve talked a bit about the importance of your healing spirit, but I definitely don’t want to lose sight of your healing hands as well, and I sincerely commend your commitment to the ongoing education needed to maintain your proficiency.
Because nothing we hope Ethiopia will achieve in the future will be possible without healthy Ethiopians to achieve it.
That’s why one of the longest partnerships between the U.S. and Ethiopian governments – dating back to the 1950s – has focused on advancing health care in Ethiopia and on improving the health and wellness of Ethiopians.
One of the earliest things we did, back in the 1950s, was help establish the Gondar College of Medical Sciences, which later became Gondar University.
And today, our health care engagement comprises no fewer than six U.S. government agencies which are represented on our embassy team in Ethiopia: the U.S. Agency for International Development; the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Department of Treasury, and the Peace Corps.
And we do a lot with that presence.
Our global health diplomacy efforts focus on strengthening the interconnected sub-systems of the health sector.
This includes human resources development for health services, the pharmaceuticals supply chain, health information systems, and the health care financing system, as well as developing leadership and governance within the health sector and health care delivery system.
We invest huge resources to help Ethiopia combat infectious diseases like HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria, and to prevent outbreaks like Ebola and other global health threats.
We work with U.S.-based institutions to leverage expertise and facilitate knowledge exchange between U.S. and Ethiopian universities.
Just one example is our ongoing work with Harvard University to support the training of health managers on research and evaluation.
Our support to the Ministry of Health to produce the National Quality Strategy and Implementation Guideline is one aspect of our efforts to institutionalize sustainable ways of improving the quality of health services in Ethiopia.
One of our priorities over the next few years will be to increase partnerships with the private sector and civil-society organizations to mobilize support and resources for better health for Ethiopians.
Through this approach, the U.S. government will support market-based solutions, work to accelerate private investment, and leverage private sector expertise and resources to create a more sustainable health care system and set Ethiopia on the path to self-reliance.
We’re working with more than 200 private hospitals and clinics throughout the country to further expand access to HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and other services.
And we’re investing heavily in Ethiopian research capacity and application as well.
The U.S. government has trained a generation of Ethiopians to use research and surveys to promote evidence-based decision-making.
Collaborating with the Ethiopian Public Health Institute, we’ve conducted a range of clinical and programmatic research in the areas of HIV, TB, malaria, and health systems strengthening, to guide the health sector’s planning and prioritization of health services.
In addition to evidence-based research and surveys, we’ve supported annual conferences to share research findings and turn them into action to improve health services.
And all of these efforts in the health sector fall within the broader context of the U.S. government’s investments, often totaling over one billion U.S. dollars a year, in nutrition, food security, livelihoods, resilience, agricultural productivity, education, and sanitation – all vital components of a healthy Ethiopian population as well.
And in the past year, we’ve developed and are implementing a strategic plan, currently valued at almost 200 million U.S. dollars and growing, to support the Ethiopian government’s new political and economic reforms.
I could go on, but I hope I’ve given you a sense of the substantial and ongoing commitment of the U.S. government and people to support Ethiopia in general, and the health of Ethiopian people in particular.
Our own efforts in this regard make us doubly grateful for your efforts as well.
Because supporting Ethiopia, and Ethiopians, at this pivotal moment, will require much more than any of us can do alone.
And nothing will match the impact we will have by working together.
Simple words, but I can’t emphasize them enough.
And with them, I’d like to offer a final few words to those of you from the United States.
The standing and influence of Ethiopia’s extraordinary diaspora, particularly from the United States, simply can’t be overstated.
You, here today, are the essential link between our two great nations, and you, here today, are the embodiment of the positive impact that Ethiopia needs from its diaspora.
Your presence here today confirms the depth of your commitment to supporting Ethiopia in the days ahead.
But unfortunately, yours are not the only influences we see.
In this moment, Ethiopia has an unprecedented and hard-won opportunity to commit itself to a durable form of governance:
- that gives its people a voice in their governance;
- that’s accountable to its people and therefore works in their best interests;
- that unleashes economic opportunity;
- and that safeguards the stability of the country – the kind of stability that comes from a shared vision and common cause, rather than from the repression this country has seen all too much of in the past.
But to achieve this future, Ethiopians need to unify around it.
And to unify, Ethiopians need Ethiopian voices to rally them around a shared purpose that serves their best collective interests, and that delegitimizes the voices that would instead foment distractions, divisions, and destruction.
Unfortunately, some of those harmful voices come from the U.S.-based diaspora: people who, from the comfort and safety of the United States, incite hatred and violence on the ground in Ethiopia.
Please don’t misunderstand me: no one believes more strongly than I do in the freedom of expression enshrined in U.S. laws and values.
But at the same time, no one believes more strongly than I do in our collective obligation to use our freedoms responsibly.
Regardless of where the voices of divisiveness and hate come from, all of you here today have extraordinary stature to stand against them.
I encourage you to use your influence to stand loudly and clearly for what’s right, and to advocate for the collective best interests of all Ethiopian people.
The United States will do the same.
We will continue to stand with every single Ethiopian working to secure a peaceful, politically inclusive, prosperous, and stable future for themselves and their country, and we will continue to support the efforts of Ethiopia’s government, institutions, and people to achieve that future.
Thank you again for all that you’re doing, and for this chance to share a few thoughts with you.
I wish you a very pleasant conference.