(as prepared for delivery)
All protocols observed. Ladies and Gentlemen, honored guests: good morning. Thank you for coming to this important event.
The United States is deeply committed to working with you, the Nigerian people, and with your government for many years to come. One of the areas in which we continue to work very closely together is improving the health of the Nigerian people.
Today, the United States and Nigeria work side-by-side increasing Nigerians access to HIV/AIDS and malaria testing and treatment, improving the quality of family planning and reproductive health services, and expanding access to immunization for children and women.
The United States and Nigeria also are working together to address the worsening problem of tuberculosis in Nigeria. Our support to the future health of Nigerians is the single largest investment we have made world-wide.
The U.S. Embassy’s Walter Reed Program, supported through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known as PEPFAR, helps save the lives of those suffering from HIV. PEPFAR is a historic commitment—the largest by any nation to combat a single disease internationally—and PEPFAR investments also help alleviate suffering from other diseases across the globe.
For 12 years, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Nigerian Ministry of Defense have worked together to enhance HIV prevention, care, and treatment. This partnership has not only endured, but it has also grown into a model for the way our militaries can work together effectively. The work this partnership does—fighting the spread of infectious diseases throughout Nigeria—is as important today as it was 12 years ago. It is my honor to be here today to congratulate you on your many accomplishments and wish you well as you begin another 12 years of work.
The 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic in West Africa revealed both great potential and deep deficiencies within the mechanisms for rapid medical response to public health emergencies. While global coordination resulted in controlling this epidemic, greater investment in public health infrastructure and surveillance systems could have yielded better preparation and response to the outbreak.
Recently, the U.S. government dedicated funding for disease control in West Africa. A significant amount has been awarded to the U.S. Military HIV Research Program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and to the Naval Medical Research Center. This funding supports laboratory and clinical capacity building through military-to-military collaborations and academia. To address these deficiencies and achieve these objectives, we established the Joint West Africa Research Group to include collaborations between over 14 partners.
Over the next five years, we will leverage existing capacity, coordinate with host nation militaries and in-country partners for health security to develop clinical and laboratory capacity, bio-surveillance, and response capabilities, and evaluate infectious diseases countermeasures in Nigeria, Ghana, and Liberia.
During our 12-year partnership, the joint effort has grown from three to 46 locations across Nigeria. The Nigerian military and Nigerian society are stronger, healthier, and better able to move the country forward.
This partnership has grown and matured under strong leadership, making good use of available resources. Health programs are not simply about doctors, nurses, and medications. They are about complex logistics, as well as extensive data gathering and analysis allowing us to plot a better course for the future. Perhaps even more importantly, they are about connecting people. This partnership shows how well the military can engage with civil society, highlighting how military-civilian relationships can help combat and proactively respond to infectious disease in the future.
Together we have established centers of excellence for laboratory services, and today we can boast of the only five-star rated laboratory in Nigeria.
We are here to celebrate our combined efforts to create countermeasures under the Joint West African Research Group and look forward to their success over the next five years.
While much work remains in the future, the joint efforts of the American and Nigerian governments will no doubt lead to great success towards fighting the global epidemics that have affected Nigeria, West Africa, and other parts of the world.
Thank you for your leadership, commitment, and hard work over the past decade. Congratulations to all those who made this day possible. And good luck with all that I know you will strive to do over the next 12 years.