Press Briefing by Ambassador Schultz in Kasama, October 26, 2016

Ambassador Schultz:  We have officials from the Embassy here in Kasama.  This is in fact the inaugural…we are calling it “America Days,” where we travel around Zambia and introduce the United States to the Zambian public.  And in particular some of the things we are doing here, we met with the provincial minister, the P.S. and myself earlier.  But this visit has kind of a health focus because as many of you know, the United States is the single largest bilateral donor to Zambia.  The sum total of our assistance is about half a billion dollars a year.  This is grants. It’s a gift from the American people to the Zambian people.  About 85 percent of that money goes for the health sector and about 85 percent of that goes to HIV/AIDS.  It’s a substantial sum of money.  And so, frankly, we are very proud of the partnership we have established with the Ministry of Health and with the Zambian government in the area of health; in particular in the area of HIV and AIDS.  You have 800,000 now — I guess – Zambians, who are receiving antiretrovirals (ARVs) free-of-charge every year right now.  Those are people whose lives have been saved by this program.  And beyond that, I think the most important thing to point out is that we have seen a change in behavior.  We have seen a drop in the infection rate, which is critical for the future of the country.

I am very interested in development issues.  I studied Economics when I was at university in graduate school.  And when I look at the development prospects for Zambia, I am extremely optimistic, frankly, about the economic future of the country.   I think you have a lot of things going for you.  But I think that to realize that potential, maybe the single most important thing is the pool of human talent, human capital.  You need to have an educated and healthy workforce in order to develop a modern economy.  And so, these are areas in which the United States is particularly focusing in trying to help the Zambian government to do a better job — educating people and taking care of their health.  So, I will leave it at that and turn it over to my colleague.

Health Permanent Secretary Peter Mwaba:  Thank you very much Ambassador!  And for me I think I would like first to thank the management team for having welcomed us with Ambassador Schultz and, through you, to thank your team for having facilitated this visit.  For me as a government official first, I am very pleased with the partnership that we have had with the Americans and the grants that you are continuously pouring not only directly into Zambia, but also through the Global Fund and the contribution that you have been making in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  I am pleased to tell you that, indeed, we have made good use of the money that you have given us as you have seen from the many infrastructure developments that we have had in place, both at the University Teaching Hospital in terms of the infrastructure, the buildings across the country, and indeed the drugs that we continue to receive in the partnership that we continue to receive not only in the fight against HIV/AIDS but also malaria and of course tuberculosis.  So, we want make sure that all our partners emulate what we have been doing with the United States government:  working together; mooting out programs together; with of course government being in control so that we best guide the best way to use the resources that we continue to receive from you.  So, for me it is just really to thank the American people for being there for us.  I think at some point we lost most of our partners, but you have been there for us and the amount of money that you continue pouring in the health sector is quite significant.  So, we would like, through you, to thank the American people for providing support that you have been giving us.  We remain grateful. Thank you very much!

ZANIS Reporter:  I have a question.

Ambassador, you are just from undertaking a tour around the general hospital.  How have you found the situation and also your comment?

Ambassador Schultz:  Well, I think it is almost a microcosm of Zambia — some of the challenges that you face and some of the opportunities that you have.  What I saw was a well-trained motivated staff that is doing tremendous work, taking care of the health of their fellow Zambians.  But they have some challenges.  The physical plant is old and inadequate.  It needs to be updated.  And they have problems with electricity, for instance, with the power going out and you have a lot of machines that have been purchased at a great expense that require continuous electricity.  So, these are things that, together, we are going to work on to ensure that we try to solve going forward.  But I think you have the single most important thing which you need; you have the capacity here to address these problems — the human capacity — I should say.

PAO:  Thank you.  Are there any other questions?

MUVI-TV Reporter:  I think mine goes to the P.S.  Inasmuch as we appreciate the assistance that is coming from the U.S., but what plans do you have as country in terms of being self-dependent.  How do we plan to be self-reliant?  Are we going to continue relying on other stakeholders?

Health Permanent Secretary Peter Mwaba:  But I thought you as a Zambian should be the first one to answer that one!  Because it is not my plan or Ministry of Health plan.  It should be our national plan.  We should be a very proud people.  We should be ready to work at all times.  Grow the economy, use the agriculture, use tourism grow an economy.  But as it pertains to health, what I can tell you is that as a way of sustaining ourselves, we have just passed a bill, which is going to go to parliament on social health insurance so that we ensure that we start raising enough money to be able to run the sector.  So, our long-term plan is that we should be able to accrue our own finances be able to run the affairs of the country.  But more importantly, it is you and me to grow the economy.  You have a role to play; I have a role to play.  All of us here must be proud to run our own economy so that if Americans don’t come to give us money.

Ambassador Schultz:  So, if I can just address that.  We are frankly happy to be of service and to be of assistance.  But, in fact, no assistance project is permanent.  I mean if you look at the name of the program it’s the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief.  It has been 12 years since the program has been in existence now.  So, I am not quite sure whether “emergency” still fits.  But anyway that is the name of the program and the notion incumbent in that is that at some point, this assistance will end.  And what we would want to do is to ensure that there is a seamless transition, that in the process of our assistance beginning to decline over time, we will see Zambia’s contribution rise in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  But I want to echo what the P.S. said, because I think that this is all about developing the country and developing the economy and developing its people.  Because actually the key is that when you have a vibrant and prosperous economy, then you will be able to take care of yourselves and maybe even potentially assist other countries.  And that is what I think you should be striving for.  And again, I think that this country has tremendous economic potential.  But to achieve it, you have to make the right decisions.  And certainly education and healthcare are very critical to the future of Zambia.

PAO:  Thank you.