HANOI -- Good morning. It is my great pleasure to help open the seventh annual meeting of the Joint Advisory Committee. I would like to thank Deputy Minister Tuyen for hosting this meeting in your new headquarters building. I would also like to recognize the international partners who have joined us this morning, including representatives from the United Nations, the Czech Republic, and New Zealand.
Your presence here exemplifies the multilateral partnership that is helping Vietnam respond to environmental and health challenges related to Agent Orange.
We have accomplished so much since my first JAC meeting last year. Last month, our two countries launched a project to clean up the dioxin contamination in Danang. This project, implemented by USAID and the Ministry of National Defense, is a milestone in our joint efforts to address the legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam. And it is thanks in large part to the common ground we have forged through these talks, along with the support of political leaders like U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy.
While we are focused on Danang, we can and will do more nationwide. We will cooperate with the Vietnamese government, the United Nations Development Program, and the Czech government on an environmental assessment in Bien Hoa. The environmental assessment will help determine the full extent of the dioxin contamination there and assess scientifically proven methods to isolate and clean up the contamination. I look forward to the JAC's input on this vital next step.
We will also soon launch a new three-year, $9 million health and disabilities program. USAID will work to put in place a case management system to help people with disabilities access comprehensive, integrated medical and social services. In addition, we will pilot low-cost, high-impact public health measures, including pre-conception counseling, newborn screening, birth defects surveillance, and cancer surveillance. This public health initiative is based on recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control in these JAC meetings, including a workshop on national newborn screening and birth defects surveillance held before the 2010 JAC meeting.
That workshop, by the way was sponsored by the Ford Foundation, a good example of how resources and expertise from the private sector have helped us get to where we are today. When Secretary Clinton visited Hanoi in July, she and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh discussed further engagement with the private sector in this area, and I encourage the JAC to think about how public-private partnerships can advance our common efforts.
I am proud of what our two governments have accomplished to date, and I am committed to moving forward. I am eager to follow your discussions over the next two days and review your recommendations. I wish you a very successful meeting. Thank you.
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Last updated: January 21, 2015