Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) EPT-2/GHSA Regional Launch

Opening Remarks at Food and Agriculture Regional Launch

by Deputy Chief of Mission Paul R. Sutphin

Kenya Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Cabinet Secretary Bett; Uganda Ministry of Animal Agriculture, Industry and Fisheries State Minister for Animal Resources Rwamirama; Ethiopia Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries State Minister Mekonnen; Excellencies, FAO Country Representatives, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Good morning, habari za asabuhi?

It is my pleasure to be here today to represent the United States’ Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) as we all take another concrete step forward in addressing pandemic diseases that threaten all our countries.  As you know, the United States believes that this threat merits the world’s focused attention – and looking out at all of you, it’s clear that many leading global health experts both inside and outside of national governments agree.  The U.S. is, and will continue, to robustly support this effort; I am proud to be here with you to launch the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) expanded partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in support of the Global Health Security Agenda, the GHSA. The GHSA is a growing partnership of nearly 50 nations, international organizations and non-governmental stakeholders formed to build countries’ capacity to help create a world safe and secure from the infectious disease threats and to elevate global health security as a national, regional and global priority.  The FAO is a leading partner in this effort.  The partnership between the United States and FAO is well established, and an extension of our mutual dedication to the global health security and the goal to create a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats.

USAID and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of State, and other branches of the U.S. government, all support the Global Health Security Agenda.  The U.S. government is dedicating our human and financial resources to help 30 countries prevent, rapidly detect, and effectively respond to infectious-disease threats across the world.  I am proud that today marks the launch of implementation of USAID’s recently-signed $87 million global agreement with the FAO to advance key GHSA priorities, particularly regarding the crucial nexus between animal and human-related diseases.

Nearly 75 percent of newly emerging infectious diseases affecting people in the last century originated in animals, including domesticated and wild species. USAID is partnering with the FAO under this global grant to help monitor, map and respond to animal and human-related disease threats.

Increasingly, deadly diseases such as Ebola, Marburg, avian influenza, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS virus, highlight the urgent need for the public health, livestock, and wildlife sectors to work together to better prevent, detect, and respond to emerging disease threats. A coordinated human and animal-focused approach to disease control is vital to safeguarding our communities and environments.  This is a priority for USAID’s Emerging Pandemic Threats program, is integral to the GHSA, and I know a key priority of many African countries.

To this end, our partnership with Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda have resulted in the joint development of five-year GHSA roadmaps to guide countries in achieving agreed key health security objectives.  The implementation of these roadmaps, of which animal health is a central component, is already well underway in these countries, including here in Kenya. The U.S. government has also begun working to develop GHSA Roadmaps with the Governments of Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, countries new to GHSA.

Our partnership with the FAO, as I noted, is not new. Globally, the United States, largely through USAID, has established a productive operational relationship with the FAO for more than a decade. This collaboration has historically centered on controlling animal diseases and managing related human-health threats, including reducing the threat of H5N1 avian influenza.  During the early days of this partnership, FAO was able to rapidly deploy staff to affected countries, primarily in Asia where the threat was greatest, to advise host governments, manage USAID-funded avian influenza programs, and collaborate with public health officials to promote a “One Health” approach to control the threat.

Building on USAID’s and FAO’s previous work together, the new chapter of our partnership we are all here today to recognize and launch will see FAO increase its staff within GHSA-focus countries in Africa to support surveillance and risk assessment, lab strengthening, zoonotic disease prevention, outbreak response, and other key global health  security priorities.  FAO will work with the USAID’s Emerging Pandemic Threat program to expand global knowledge and mitigate the risk of wildlife diseases spilling over to livestock and, especially, to people. Our partnership will help FAO assist relevant ministries of agriculture, ecology, forestry, wildlife, and livestock to advance health security in Africa and to effectively collaborate with public health and other ministries through a “One Health” model.

Ladies and gentlemen, President Obama, during his historic visit to Kenya last July, said “…across Africa, Kenya, and the United States, we’ll keep working to strengthen public health systems and deal with outbreaks of diseases before they become epidemics…Together we can save lives.”  The work we are launching today aims to do just that — to save African lives.

All of us are here today as allies in this fight to keep Kenya and all the countries in the region, and beyond, safe and healthy. We look forward to expanded and very productive relationships with the FAO and our African partners.   We are confident that together we can, and we will, increase resiliency and the skills and cooperation needed to combat disease. I wish you all success as you work together and learn from one another, and agree on how best to achieve our common goals through this program.   Today marks a major step in our common journey toward keeping East Africa growing, thriving, and—most of all –healthy.

Thank you very much.