Good morning. I am honored to represent the people of the United States of America to officially launch a very important health initiative for West Africa called the Dindji (deen-JI) Project. The word “dindji” signifies “border” in Mina. This relates directly to the project’s core goal: zero new infections, zero AIDS-related deaths, and zero discrimination across borders. In this case, “borders” refers to the Abidjan to Lagos corridor, where sixty-percent of the sub-region’s economic activity takes place. In fact, just two days ago, a similar launch took place in Bénin, demonstrating this project’s true cross-border scope.
Dindji Project is funded by the United States’ Agency for International Development, known as USAID. In Africa, USAID works with its partners to improve access to and delivery of health services, to support more accountable and democratic institutions, to start businesses and foster an environment attractive to private investment, and to stave off conflict and strengthen communities. USAID assistance to forty-two African countries totaled more than eight billion dollars in 2012. That is almost five thousand billion francs CFA.
Dindji Project aims to enhance the quality of health services and improve the socio-cultural and legal environment primarily for two key populations affected by HIV in the sub-region. Those key populations are female sex workers and men who have sex with men. I understand some of you might be uncomfortable with my reference to these communities that, for the most part, remain in the margins of society. Yet, the health of these individuals has a direct impact on the wider communities in which we and they live. As human beings caring for other human beings, it is simply the right thing to do. And, this project will also impact the health care system overall by improving the quality of HIV services available.
Indeed, one of the main priorities of the U.S. diplomatic mission here in Togo is to expand access to quality health care. This falls within the framework of the United States’ overall goal of achieving an HIV-free generation globally by 2030. For many years, the U.S. Embassy in Lomé has worked in partnership with the Togolese Ministry of Health and local organizations to fight HIV/AIDS. For example, the U.S. Department of Defense’s HIV/AIDS Prevention Program has actively supported the Togolese Armed Forces and the Togolese non-governmental organization Association des Militaires Anciens Combattants Amis et Corps Habillés to prevent and manage HIV/AIDS cases in the military.
Ladies and gentlemen, the American people care about the people of Togo. Over the last twenty years, the United States has provided funding for close to four hundred development projects in Togo. Since December, medical experts from our Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, known as the CDC, based in Atlanta, Georgia, have visited Togo and spent many weeks here. Through the World Health Organization, this team of experts has been collaborating with the Ministry of Health to strengthen Togo’s Ebola preparedness in case of an outbreak of the Ebola virus. This collaboration has been so successful the CDC has decided to soon establish an office in Lomé.
In closing, I wish to give a special thank you to USAID’s partner in this project, the Public International Organization Organization du Corridor Abidjan-Lagos, as well as to the Togolese Ministry of Health and Togo’s National HIV/AIDS council for your support in implementing Dindji Project in Togo. As I near the end of my tenure as U.S. ambassador to Togo, I will forever look back with pride on the contributions Americans have made to improve the lives of the Togolese people.