Today marks 50 years of USAID working to end poverty worldwide. Thank you to USAID employees, alumni and our government, donor and implementing partners for working to save lives and end poverty. Thank you to Ambassador Booth and our colleagues from the US Embassy and the Peace Corps for your support in accomplishing our shared mission.
On this anniversary, we honor the men and women of USAID whose dedication to service has saved or improved millions of lives around the world; we honor the visionaries whose spirit of innovation have brought hope and opportunity to developing nations; we honor our past but also look ahead to deliver lasting results to those who are working to build a better future for their families and communities.
The story of USAID in Ethiopia mirrors the progress and setbacks, the accomplishments and challenges of Ethiopia over the last fifty years.
The first technical assistance agreement between the US and Ethiopia was signed in 1952 a decade before USAID began operations in Ethiopia. I can tell you of the generosity of the American people over six decades. Since 1952, US development and humanitarian assistance comes to a total of over $9.8 billion in constant dollars. But what I am especially proud of is the legacy of USAID in Ethiopia, the institutions and the generations of Ethiopians it has served.
At its start, USAID responded to government's requests for infrastructure and institution-building support and with progress then shifted its strategy to a less visible but most strategic focus on investing in people through health and education and economic growth. For this reason, we say USAID has been and is a quiet force for progress.
With the founding of USAID, Ethiopia was among the first countries to receive assistance and received one of the largest grants at the time.
A notable and enduring accomplishment was the construction, equipping and staffing of the College of Agriculture at Alemaya (now part of Haromaya University) through a contract with Oklahoma State University. Then followed the expansion of facilities of agricultural schools in Jimma and Ambo, to name but two of many others.
What may surprise you is that, in the early years, USAID assisted in the development of Ethiopian Airlines through a contract with TWA and even built a runaway at Bole airport! USAID supported the development of Bole Homes. Grants provided for the design, equipping and construction of six dormitories, an auditorium, and the JFK library at Addis Ababa University.
USAID‘s earliest support to the health sector brought about the Malaria Eradication Service in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and today that support continues through our collaboration with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF. Another enduring and early result of USAID cooperation with WHO was the establishment of the public health college in Gondar.
Despite the rupture in relations between the US and the Derg regime, USAID continued to provide humanitarian and emergency assistance from 1981-1992 through NGO implementing partners. In 1989, US Congressman Mickey Leland died as he had lived, on a mission seeking to help those most in need. He was leading a mission to an isolated refugee camp, Fugnido, in Gambela, which sheltered thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing the civil conflict in neighboring Sudan. Fifteen people died on the mission, including State Department and USAID personnel, as well as Ethiopian nationals.
After the downfall of the Derg, USAID started aggressive new programs in education and health which continue today and which helped the GOE to open schools to children across the country and to stand up thousands of health extension workers to serve the remotest villages of the country.
USAID’s policy work with the Government of Ethiopia enabled reform of the disaster management and emergency response system in nine regions. This assistance has steadily evolved over the years since the famine of the 70’s, and as a former Food for Peace officer, I am immensely pleased to say has saved thousands of lives in more recent food emergencies.
FEWSNET is a source of pride for USAID. Our partnership with the government and many of the donors and agencies represented here tonight is exemplified by the Productive Safety Net Program.
USAID’s democracy and governance activities have contributed behind the scenes to progress in decentralizing and reforming budgets and accounts and, more recently, to strengthening municipal services; and, again often unseen, to preventing and mitigating local conflicts in the remotest corners of this vast country.
Today we redouble and focus the power of our investments and expertise, drawing on these decades of experience and advancements in technology, to progress in food security, agricultural growth and livelihoods, to secure health and education for the population, and to promote good governance vital to peace and development; in sum, we leverage our USAID technical assistance and resources across the public and private sectors, to create opportunity for all, and to the benefit of both our nations.
On the road to development, progress sometimes comes speedily and visibly, and other times, slowly and less visibly, testing our shared vision and our belief that opportunity for all is just around the corner as long as we, aid workers, persist.
I will close with a lesser known quote from our founder President Kennedy, one which reminds of our common quest for prosperity and for peace, he said: “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's future and we are all mortal”. Thank you for participating in this 50th Anniversary celebration and our collective endeavor to make our common future a bright one.
Now I would like to take a moment to recognize our Ethiopian staff. Every USAID mission relies heavily on what we term our “Foreign Service Nationals”, staff from our host country. Our Ethiopian staff performs technical and managerial as well as operational and administrative functions. Inspired by an annual tradition of the US Marines, I would like to recognize the longest serving foreign nationals and the newest to join USAID:
Wzo. Mehret Menkir has served over twenty years and Ato Wondwossen Bekele nearly twenty years; Ato Endale Lemma and Wzo. Mehader Fisseha have joined just a week ago. Please give them a round of applause.
Last updated: January 21, 2015