(as prepared for delivery)
Good morning, representatives of Procter & Gamble and UNICEF. All other protocols observed.
On behalf of the U.S. Government, I would like to welcome you all to this handover ceremony. This generous action by Procter & Gamble comes at a time when the security situation in the northeast remains unstable and the needs of internally displaced persons, or IDPs, are dire. We commend the efforts by the Government of Nigeria to address the ongoing crisis, but we all know much remains to be done.
Over two million residents have been driven from their homes due to the ongoing conflict. The Nigerian army has made great strides in addressing the military problem and we all hope that the end is in sight. The humanitarian dimension will remain an issue for quite some time. Yet, the citizens of Borno State welcomed friends and family who were forced to flee from conflict areas into their homes. As a result of their generosity, around 90 percent of all IDPs have been sheltered in homes instead of settlements. Nevertheless, 10 percent, or over 200,000 people, is still a significant number of people who reside in IDP settlements.
These IDP settlements are located throughout the country, including some as far away as the Federal Capital Territory. On Tuesday, U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Maria Brewer personally visited one of these settlements where she saw livelihoods being transformed through an entrepreneurship skills training program sponsored by USAID. The private sector can also play a powerful role in lifting people out of poverty, regardless of the present condition. IDPs can start their own businesses and generate revenues for themselves and their families.
The ability of the private sector to assist those most in need is also on display. We are here today to witness the donation of goods from Procter & Gamble to UNICEF—a donation that will impact and improve the daily lives of the IDPs. This includes over 5,000 sanitary pads, 11,000 units of detergent, 1,200 diapers, 3,300 tubes of toothpaste, and nearly 300,000 batteries. In turn, UNICEF will transport the goods to Borno State and distribute them to IDPs living in settlements.
The notable efforts in this action are from a U.S. company, Procter & Gamble, and the international development organization, UNICEF, in alleviating some part of the human suffering among IDPs. We give you our deepest thanks for being a partner in developing Nigeria and offering good hygiene practices and high-quality products to the most vulnerable populations.
P&G’s donations highlight the role that the private sector can play in contributing to relief efforts. Over the last year, we have seen contributions by firms—both large and small—to relief efforts. Their endeavors were not driven for profit, but motivated to support ongoing efforts by the Government of Nigeria, the international community, and most importantly, by the Nigerian people to bring comfort to their fellow citizens’ daily lives.
A firm like P&G, based in Lagos, which offers this support, illustrates that problems in one part of the country are acutely felt by people who live throughout the nation. Collective efforts at many different levels are needed to adequately address the many challenges that impact conflict-affected people.
I would also like to highlight the role that UNICEF plays in assisting Nigerians throughout the country, specifically in Borno State. Since 1952, UNICEF continues to touch millions of lives in this country through its work in child protection, humanitarian assistance, and social service provisions. Our own USAID is currently partnering with UNICEF to distribute over 300,000 mosquito nets to conflict-affected areas in the northeast. We applaud UNICEF for joining with a strong U.S. company like P&G to extend its capabilities, particularly in hygiene provisions, to positively affect thousands of more lives in tough conditions.
Looking at the broader picture, this collaboration between P&G and UNICEF shows what is possible when the private sector engages with its host country and people to promote social practices. Collaborations of this nature provide a model for other firms to follow as they seek to become good corporate citizens in Nigeria. Through this action, P&G proves its social commitment to proper hygiene and sanitation as seriously as its responsibilities to its shareholders. Too often, we hear about how corporations cannot engage in development efforts because they are too focused on the bottom line or do not speak the language of development. This effort by P&G and UNICEF is proof positive that the thinking is changing and that corporate collaboration with development partners can promote vibrant and vital models for each side to extend assistance to underprivileged people.
Let me say that these efforts are not restricted to only large corporations and development agencies. We recently saw how a small medical services firm, Deluxe Birth Services, donated 400 home birth kits to the UN Population Fund for IDP settlements in Maiduguri. The kits will support pregnant women in internally displaced persons settlements in Boko Haram-affected communities in Borno State.
Firms both large and small are welcome to partner with development organizations to multiply the impact that they could achieve on their own. The U.S. government appreciates the efforts of everyone involved in this effort and we hope that we can continue to support further collaboration between the private sector and the development community.
Thank you all very much.