Remarks by Ambassador James F. Entwistle Memorandum of Understanding Signing Ceremony for Routine Immunization in Kaduna (January 20, 2016)

Sokoto State State Government House, Kaduna | January 20, 2016

(as prepared for delivery)

Good morning.  I would like to begin with my favorite Nigerian expression: all protocols observed.

On behalf of the U.S. government, I have the honor to witness the signing of these Memoranda of Understanding for Routine Immunization in Borno, Kaduna, Sokoto, and Bauchi states.  I am proud that the U.S. government is joining the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Dangote Foundation in the strong pursuit to end vaccine-preventable child deaths in Nigeria.  Under this partnership, we are helping Sokoto State to increase and sustain high immunization coverage.  This occasion demonstrates the willingness and commitment of your governments and organizations to tackle the challenges to achieving these goals.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s contributions in the areas of health and agriculture have yielded concrete results in Nigeria.  In the area of polio, for example, the foundation’s influence has provided invaluable guidance and constant oversight as Nigeria pushes to rid the land of this disease.  The Foundation’s support has expanded to include the entire immunization program, ensuring that its investment in Nigeria will save even more lives.

The Dangote Foundation has provided much needed assistance in the areas of health, education, and empowerment.  Impressively it has also responded swiftly to humanitarian emergencies in Nigeria.  These responses to devastating natural disasters and to Boko Haram’s reign of terror have given thousands of Nigerians a second chance at life.

The U.S. government tirelessly seeks opportunities to partner with Nigerians in tackling the challenges to the country’s development.  Each year, we provide more than $600 million in programs to address serious health issues, such as child mortality, maternal and newborn health, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.  Our ultimate goal is to end preventable child and maternal deaths and to achieve an AIDS-free generation.

These MOUs offer the model platform to capitalize on the prospects of evidence-based approaches.  Results will include stronger systems for immunizations, equal access to routine immunization services, and building capacity for Nigerian states like Sokoto to lead in developing solutions for its people. Perhaps even more importantly, these agreements serve as a model on which to base future partnerships between development partners and the Government of Nigeria.  The commitment not only of Naira, but also to ensuring transparency and accountability in the implementation of this program, demonstrates the pledge of the Governments of all the states involved to ensuring they meet their responsibilities to their constituents.  Essential health services, like routine immunization programs, can only be provided when all partners are coordinated and committed in this manner.

Immunization represents the most cost-effective public health intervention.  Routine immunization services, when sustained, reduce maternal and child illnesses and deaths and free up other resources for development.  Under this partnership, the U.S. Government will maintain its focus on Sokoto State, offering quality technical assistance in support of the partners’ harmonized work plan in that state.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to everyone whose dedication and efforts have contributed to the finalization of this partnership.  Their insights, goodwill, and friendship have made it a reality.

Thank you very much.