Remarks by U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires David Young During the Virtual Handover of Diagnostic Equipment for Viral Outbreak Detection

Remarks by U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires David Young
Virtual Handover of Diagnostic Equipment for Viral Outbreak Detection
Ministry of Health, Lusaka, Zambia

October 2, 2020

 (as prepared for delivery)

Hon. Minister of Health, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health
Ladies and Gentlemen
All other protocols observed.

Good morning.  The U.S. government welcomes another opportunity to demonstrate our strong partnership with the Zambian government and the Zambian people.  Today, we offer this donation of laboratory diagnostic equipment to support Zambia’s outbreak detection and response system, especially for the challenges of COVID-19.  The equipment, valued at K10 million ($500,000), includes cutting-edge medical technology for bacteriology, molecular biology, and serology like a real-time PCR machine, centrifuges, autoclaves, analyzers, deep freezers and ancillary items.

Allow me to explain specifically how this equipment can help in an outbreak.  This new equipment will allow novel viral pathogens like Ebola to be detected in Zambia.  Additionally, medical experts can deploy this equipment as a mobile laboratory that can place state-of-the-art diagnostics within immediate reach of patients.  As a result, we radically reduce the time to determine the presence of an outbreak, allowing a faster start for response and containment efforts.  The Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI) will take the lead in utilizing this equipment to detect any introduction of a viral pathogen and mobilize an outbreak response.

This work builds on the 15-year collaboration between Zambia and the United States on improving the laboratory infrastructure across Zambia, with strong support from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.  In the past year alone, the United States government has invested over $44 million, or K880 million, in Zambia for laboratory systems.  This investment has helped Zambia establish a diagnostics system that enables one million viral load tests per year and offers the full spectrum laboratory support for people living with HIV.

Through our Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Agency for International Development, the U.S. government has provided critical assistance to Zambia’s public health system.  We have provided our laboratory support prior to Zambia’s first COVID-19 case and we will continue to support the Ministry of Health in producing rapid, accurate diagnoses of COVID-19.  These efforts are bearing fruit.

I would like to recognize the diligent laboratory diagnosticians who have worked double shifts and weekends, and accepted personal risk in providing testing for COVID-19.  We are honored to contribute this equipment in recognition of your extraordinary efforts.  As our experience with COVID-19 has taught us, we must work together, think ahead, and prepare for the next crisis.  I am confident the use of this donated equipment will dramatically calibrate Zambia’s ongoing response to COVID-19 and prepare the country for the next public health crisis.  Let’s defeat this pandemic together.  Zikomo kambwili.