Remarks by U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert F. Godec for Opening of the Ministry of Health Buildings

Cabinet Secretary James Macharia,
Mabibi na mabwana,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Hamjambo! Habari zenu?

Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to be with you today for this long-anticipated event. The United States has collaborated with Kenya now for over 50 years, since independence, on helping to improve the health and wellbeing of the Kenyan people. These buildings represent and further strengthen the foundations of our relationship with Kenya and the sustained modernization of the Kenya Ministry of Health.

Hippocrates, the founder of the modern practice of medicine, wrote, “Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” Today we inaugurate facilities that greatly expand this opportunity to heal in Kenya. Today we further ensure that Kenya has the capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to a broad range of diseases that threaten the health of its people. Today we reaffirm the partnership between the United States and Kenya to work together on urgent matters of public health in Kenya, in Africa, and around the world.

We have seen significant investments in health since 2004, in part through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – PEPFAR. This unprecedented program has helped us tackle HIV and TB and to work together with the Kenyan Government to transform its national and county-level health and laboratory systems. We have also seen extraordinary leadership and dedication from public health staff in the Ministry and in the many health facilities around the country.

Our colleagues in PEPFAR and the agencies that support this program – including the CDC, USAID, Department of Defense, and Peace Corps- can attest that, when they meet in Washington, D.C., or in regional meetings around the African continent – Kenya is often cited as an innovator among all the PEPFAR countries. Kenya is one of PEPFAR’s biggest success stories and has distinguished itself as a global leader in tackling the HIV crisis through a robust response.

Because of Kenya’s demonstrated leadership in public health in Africa, the United States has made significant long-term investments to expand the capacity of Kenya’s national-level health and laboratory systems. Today’s inauguration represents an investment of over KSh900 million to construct and furnish the Afya House Annex and National Public Health Reference Laboratories.

These facilities will greatly increase the capacity of Kenya’s laboratory systems. In 2014, PEPFAR supported more than 740,000 people living with HIV in Kenya with antiretroviral therapy and another 6.5 million people that were tested for HIV.

These numbers demonstrate an extraordinary amount of work on the part of Kenya’s public health staff and a significant demand on the country’s laboratories. Each patient who begins HIV treatment requires multiple tests that the laboratory system has to run and manage indefinitely. These new facilities help to meet the demands of HIV treatment and clinical lab work.

These facilities also address the need to have close collaboration among the HIV and tuberculosis programs, since TB is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV. The Afya House Annex brings HIV and TB facilities together under one roof, which will enable them to work together more effectively and will save countless lives.

Finally, this building will house the Ministry’s first Biosafety Level 3 laboratories, which will help Kenya address emerging diseases in Africa, such as dengue and Ebola. This capacity will allow Kenya to further its role as a leader in public health in Africa, in critical areas at the frontier of epidemiology.

Disease transcends national borders, tribe, and politics. When we work together to fight diseases like HIV, polio, and cholera, we protect all Kenyans, we protect Africa, we protect the world. And when we work together to address other threats to our health and wellbeing, including non-communicable diseases like cancer and diabetes, we bolster the societies and economies of Kenya and our partner nations.
Just three weeks ago, we hosted a historic visit from President Barack Obama.

During the visit, the President had some important words to say about our collaboration on health security. He 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.”

Today we are fulfilling this promise to save lives. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Government of Kenya to establish strong public health institutions that will transform its health systems and ensure Kenya can address both the challenges of today and those of tomorrow.

Asanteni sana.
Pamoja tusonge mbele.