U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia
at the Alumni Global Health Workshop
Capital Hotel, Ethiopia
February 7, 2018
(As prepared for delivery)
Good evening, and welcome to Ethiopia!
Thank you for making time in your very busy lives to participate in our first “Alumni Global Health Workshop,” here in Addis Ababa.
And please accept my sincerest respect and appreciation for the work each of you is doing in pursuit of the most important and noble of goals: saving lives and alleviating human suffering.
When we talk about Global Health, we tend to focus on the big picture: the spread of disease in our increasingly interconnected world, and the impact of poor health outcomes on our economies and societies.
And, of course, this focus is both essential and unavoidable.
But as you know better than I do, behind every statistic is a child, or a woman, or a man.
Behind every statistic is the great harm that diseases cause to real people and their families.
And behind every statistic is the harsh reality that far too many tragedies continue to be caused by diseases that can be prevented, treated, or managed through proper care.
The importance of global health– to individuals, communities, countries, and the world – is what makes your hard work, expertise, and dedication so important.
I hope that this workshop will support you, in a small way, in the work you’re doing.
Given your experience, I don’t need to tell you about the factors leading to the spread of disease.
In our small and connected world, a health threat in one place is a threat to us all.
And as disease spreads, the suffering of individuals brings detrimental impacts to entire communities, and beyond.
When we fail to provide for the health of our citizens, we feel the pain beyond the effects of illness itself.
We see the harm when children are unable to attend school.
We count the cost to families when parents are unable to work.
And we endure the lost opportunity of lives cut short, and of people marginalized or stigmatized by disease.
You’re here because you understand these challenges and are already making a difference.
Among you is a dynamic young doctor from Ethiopia, who I had the pleasure of meeting a few weeks ago, who’s playing a critical role in partnership with a major U.S. university to support CDC’s One Health and Global Health Security Programs.
Also here is an impressive Fulbright alumnus from Malawi who is fighting for TB and HIV/AIDS prevention as a health policy advocate and leader of an NGO that provides services in remote communities.
And we have an accomplished young woman from Lesotho, a participant in our Edward R. Murrow International Visitor Leadership Program for journalists, whose reporting on public health and climate change is having a real impact on community health and public policy.
If I had time, I would single out each of you in turn for the similarly amazing experiences and achievements you bring to this gathering,
From research, to clinical work, to advocacy, to journalism, you’re tackling every facet of the struggle to improve health in Africa, for Africans.
Thank you for being here this week — to share your expertise and perspectives, and to build upon your common ground as participants in U.S. exchange programs.
I’m also happy to be here tonight to stress that you are not alone in your efforts.
Like you, the United States has long recognized the importance of a cooperative and multidisciplinary approach to tackling global health challenges.
Agencies as diverse as USAID, the Centers for Disease Control, the Peace Corps, the Department of Defense, and the State Department’s Refugee Bureau are working from a variety of angles to improve the health of people in Africa and around the world.
All of these agencies are part of the U.S. Embassy team here in Ethiopia, working in close coordination with the Ethiopian government, civil society, NGOs, and the donor community.
In Ethiopia, as elsewhere, PEPFAR guides several U.S. agencies to support people living with HIV and to fight the spread of the disease – a fight we can win if we stay the course.
The Department of Defense is working here on projects to improve the safety of the blood supply, and to identify and prevent potential disease outbreaks.
CDC is working to detect and prevent the spread of antimicrobial-resistant diseases, and to improve Ethiopia’s health infrastructure more generally toward a future where everyone has access to medical care.
Among other areas of engagement, USAID is supporting Ethiopia’s enormous strides in strengthening maternal health, reducing infant mortality, preventing the transmission of malaria, and improving child nutrition.
At the community level, Peace Corps health volunteers are working in hospitals, community organizations, and HIV/AIDS Resource Centers, and Fulbright Scholars are strengthening health education in partnership with Ethiopian universities.
It’s a long list and I’m only scratching the surface, but I cite these examples to emphasize that the United States fully shares your unyielding commitment and multifaceted approach to improving health in Africa.
This is no small challenge.
By the year 2050, Africa’s population will exceed 2 billion people, with over 70 percent below the age of 35.
Meeting the needs of 2 billion people is not something any of us can do on our own.
The United States is committed to doing our part, but it’ll take strong partners and strong leaders, like you, working here on the Continent, to get the job done.
You will also need each other, which is why gatherings like this one are so important.
Many of you traveled a long way – from Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, and Tanzania – to reach Addis Ababa and your Ethiopian counterparts.
As you focus on the substance of this workshop’s excellent program, please also take time to enjoy this experience and this amazing country, and to strengthen the bonds of friendship and collaboration between yourselves.
I hope you’ll conclude this workshop not only by redoubling your commitment to the work you’re doing, but by redoubling your commitment to supporting each other.
You certainly have my commitment of support, and that of my colleagues and government.
Thank you again for the work you’re doing, and for letting me join you this evening.
I hope you have a wonderful week.