Remarks by USAID/Zambia Mission Director Sheryl Stumbras, Ministry of Health Annual Consultative Meeting

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Honorable Dr. Chitalu Chilufya, Minister of Health
Dr. Kennedy Malama, Permanent Secretary Health Services
Ms. Kakulubelwa Mulalelo, Permanent Secretary Administration
Ambassadors and Heads of Development Cooperation
Heads of UN Agencies
Ministry of Health officials
Civil Society and NGO representatives
Members of the press
Ladies and gentlemen

It is a pleasure to be here this morning and to address this distinguished room of individuals.  I would like to recognize the Minister of Health for bringing us together today.  

Thanks in large part to the Minister’s leadership and use of evidence-based decision-making, Zambia has one of the most forward leaning health policy environments in the region.  Because of this, we have made great progress toward our common goals.

I would like to thank the Swedish Embassy for its stewardship of the Health Cooperating Partners group over the past year.  Your leadership brought together the many voices of the Cooperating Partners and improved the frequency and quality of dialog between Cooperating Partners and the Ministry of Health. 

On behalf of the Cooperating Partners, I would also like to extend our thanks to everyone here today.  Together, we are working toward improving the lives of Zambians, and we have made some impressive progress.  The most recent Demographic Health Survey (DHS) found reductions in maternal and child mortality, and if current trends continue, 2020 will be the year Zambia reaches HIV epidemic control.  

Collectively, we have made these strides, and we must ensure this success is sustained.  Progress, however, is not guaranteed. In order to prevent backsliding on our advances in maternal and child health, immunizations, malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV, we must diligently ensure Zambia’s legal and policy environments remain friendly to all who need to access services. 

While the DHS results were generally positive, we know there is room for improvement.  Neonatal mortality has been on the rise, with alarming trends in Zambia’s Southern and Eastern provinces.  Together, as Cooperating Partners and the Ministry of Health, we must conduct a root cause analysis to determine the causes and mobilize resources to protect the most vulnerable. 

Further, given the global nature of disease and the fact that diseases do not stop at country borders, we need to continue to maintain open relationships built on trust and information sharing.  This is particularly relevant given recent outbreaks of polio and the novel coronavirus.

We cannot afford to leave anyone behind as we move to a healthy and prosperous Zambia.  We fully agree with the premise that it will be impossible for Zambia to end HIV and AIDS by 2030 if key populations are hindered from accessing health services through stigmatizing attitudes and behaviors.” 

The research on this is clear.  When key populations feel under threat and stigmatized, they do not access services, and when they do not access services they do not start and maintain antiretroviral treatment.  This means they can continue to infect new people and potentially undo our collective successes. 

In addition, given Zambia’s current economic challenges, we must be ruthlessly efficient and effective with every kwacha, dollar, euro, krona, pound, and yen to continue our success.  We must ensure this spirit of efficiency continues and is adhered to in all aspects of our work, from workshops to procurements.  

We applaud the steps taken by the Government of the Republic of Zambia to implement austerity measures over the past year and urge the government to take further action that will create the fiscal space necessary to fully fund its health budget and commitments moving forward.  

I would like to emphasize a crucial point.  It is critical that donor support is NOT used in any way to advance political agendas.  So, on behalf of all Cooperating Partners, I ask that all political parties refrain from politicizing donor investments to maintain the apolitical mandate of the assistance provided by our respective countries.  Dragging Cooperating Partner support into domestic politics undermines the basic tenets of our work.

Again, I am honored to be here representing the Cooperating Partners at the beginning of what we believe will be a historic year for both Zambia, the region, and the world as we have the potential to deliver a healthier Zambia where children, mothers, and all citizens are protected against common, preventable diseases and, more importantly, reach HIV epidemic control.

We look forward to our continued dialogue and collaboration over this year to deliver on these important milestones.  Thank you.

Taj Pamodzi Hotel, Lusaka
Issuing Country 

Last updated: April 06, 2020

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