Remarks by USAID Mission Director, Leslie Reed at the Inauguration of Lemi Health Center

Leslie Reed 
USAID Mission Director
at the Inauguration of Lemi Health Center
Lemi, Amhara National Regional State, Ethiopia
May 3, 2018

(As prepared for delivery)

  • Regional Health Bureau and Woreda Representatives
  • Distinguished guests

Indemin aderachu

Ask any mother how far she would go to get care for her sick child and you’ll most likely hear that she’ll go as far as necessary. A mother will walk for hours in the hot sun carrying her sick child on her back to save that child’s life. That’s just what mothers do — here in Ethiopia — and in many places around the world.

Yet we know that the shorter the time and distance people have to travel to get healthcare, the better the health results.  In some cases, it can mean the difference between life and death.  Here in this community and in many parts of the country, extremely long walks to get to healthcare facilities had been the norm for generations. This is why I am so grateful to be here on behalf of USAID as we inaugurate the new Lemi health center.

Over the past 25 years, Ethiopia, with the assistance of the donor community, has undertaken herculean efforts to improve health outcomes for all Ethiopians. A huge part of this effort has been the increase in the number of health centers. We have seen the number of health centers grow from just 520 ten years ago to more than 3,400 today. Bringing healthcare centers closer to the people who need them has helped Ethiopia successfully reduce maternal deaths by one-half and child deaths by two thirds.

The number of HIV infections has also declined.  As one of the focus countries under the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known as PEPFAR, the U.S. Government has worked together with Ethiopia to decrease the number of new infections and AIDS-related deaths by at least 50 percent since 2005. These are incredible achievements for Ethiopia!

Over the past several decades, USAID has worked together with Ethiopia to construct many dozens of health centers and similar infrastructure projects to improve the quality of life for people across the country. Today is another important step in our successful partnership, as we open the doors to another new health center to serve people living in and around Lemi. With the completion of this facility, we have now built 22 health centers in Ethiopia, 10 pharmaceutical storage warehouses, and a national blood bank, and have renovated an additional 10 existing health facilities over the past decade under the PEPFAR initiative. Most importantly, these 22 health centers are built to serve people living in some of the most remote regions of the country and are vital to the communities in these areas.

They provide access to healthcare and delivery services to mothers, children, and families who would otherwise have to walk for an average of three hours or more to reach the nearest health facility.

So, it is my absolute pleasure to inaugurate the Lemi health center. The construction of this health center took two years to complete and faced some major hurdles along the way. However, through the hard work of local officials and determination of this community, we have successfully completed the construction phase and are ready to open the doors. This facility will serve more than 25,000 people, and not just those who live in the Lemi area, but also people who live in neighboring communities. Now, people will have better access to essential health services such as immunizations for children, safer childbirths, HIV care and treatment services, and more.

As we celebrate this inauguration, I would also like to call on the Government of Ethiopia, especially the Ministry of Health, to help expedite the process for providing electricity to newly constructed health centers. Building a health facility is a big achievement, but without electricity, a health center will not be able to provide many of the essential services the community needs.

In closing, I want to thank our partners at the Ministry of Health for their continued leadership in improving the health of Ethiopians across the country. I would also like to thank the Regional Health Bureau and woreda leaders for their relentless commitment to providing quality healthcare and services to your constituents. Last but not least, I want to thank the health workers and medical staff in Lemi for their tireless dedication to providing healthcare to the people living in this community. I hope that this new facility will help you better serve the children and families of Lemi. In doing so, we will build upon the progress made in the past and continue towards a shared vision of making sure each and every Ethiopian can access the services they need to lead more healthy, happy, and more prosperous lives. Thank you.