July 4, 2021
His Excellency, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Madagascar.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for joining us today and welcome to the U.S. Embassy in Madagascar and Comoros’ celebration of the 245th anniversary of the independence of the United States.
July 4th is a joyful time in the United States. It is a time of patriotic pride, but also a time of picnics, barbecues, parades, and fireworks. Most of all, it is an opportunity for friends and families to be together and reflect on the ties that unite us as a nation. For a second year running, the world is confronting the devastating effects of a global pandemic that continues to disrupt people’s lives, our economies, and our sense of well-being. Though Covid may interrupt many of our time-honored traditions, we can still join together virtually and celebrate the world’s longeststanding democracy and Madagascar’s recently celebrated 61stbirthday.
I arrived in this wonderful country in the midst of the first wave of the pandemic. As the pandemic recedes, I look forward to discovering the natural beauty and amazing biodiversity that makes Madagascar unique. But I also look forward to getting to know the Malagasy people better and to experiencing Madagascar’s culture and traditions.
As we celebrate July 4th, I want to take a moment to remember all those we have lost in the last 18 months. This pandemic has deprived our communities of the wisdom of our elders and the energy of those who departed before their time. They are irreplaceable and we must bear the burden of their loss. But we must also continue to move ahead.
Moreover, how can we thank our first responders enough? Whether in Madagascar the United States, or elsewhere, doctors, nurses, paramedics, and all the front-line health care workers have shown us the meaning of selflessness, dedication, and devotion to duty.
All this, while risking infection and the fear of separation from their own families. They are the heroes of our time and I salute them. While this pandemic has interrupted our day-to-day lives, we must also acknowledge that it has upended economic prospects everywhere.
Here in Madagascar, the United States is uniquely placed to assist during this time of need. Our humanitarian and development assistance through USAID totaled one hundred and thirty-three and a half million dollars in 2020 alone and supports several critical sectors. The United States is the largest bilateral donor in Madagascar’s health sector, providing seventy-four and a half million dollars in 2020.
Our health projects help reduce maternal and child mortality, provide access to safe water, protect communities from malaria, improve access to family planning, ensure a reliable supply chain of medications, and reinforce the national community health policy. U.S. assistance has been critical in national efforts to address health crises such as plague, measles, malaria, and COVID-19.
In 2020, the U.S. government provided two and a half million dollars in additional funding for specific COVID-19 interventions such as disease surveillance, public health education, and ensuring the supply of essential medical provisions.
The U.S. government also contributed five million dollars to the Tosika Fameno cash transfer program to ensure vulnerable families had enough to eat. I would like to note, as well that the United States is the biggest donor to COVAX, which just delivered two hundred and fifty thousand doses of the vaccine to Madagascar.
Last year, we provided forty-eight and a half million dollars in emergency food aid and assistance to the south. We recognize that extreme drought has pushed many communities in southern Madagascar to the brink. In response, we have provided emergency food assistance for hundreds of thousands of people and treatment for sixty-four thousand children suffering from malnutrition.
Working side-by-side with the Government of Madagascar like “mpirahalahy mianala,” USAID is also implementing projects totaling one hundred and forty million dollars in support of the government’s strategy for overcoming the immediate food shortages in the south, while at the same time implementing long-term economic development to reduce the root causes of food insecurity.
Some of our best work is in helping communities help themselves. Whether it is helping farmers increase productivity with environmentally friendly techniques, or working with communities to rehabilitate wells, farm-to-market roads, and canals, our projects seek to build resilience and sustainable skills amongst the most vulnerable people. Likewise, our commitment to help preserve the environmental and ecological heritage of Madagascar puts local communities in the lead, so that they both manage and benefit from their own natural resources. Our goal is to create activities that are income generating, sustainable, bolster governance of natural resources, and stop international wildlife trafficking.
Our efforts in Madagascar extend well beyond aid and humanitarian assistance. We also work with the government, private sector, civil society, and others to promote good governance, to fight corruption, and to support fair and free elections. Human rights issues like child labor and human trafficking remain a top priority.
We look forward to more opportunities to advance commercial ties and economic development through our Embassy Deal Team, facilitating trade and investment in key sectors. We will continue to support the Malagasy government as it seeks to improve its maritime security and embrace its vast marine resources. We await the return of our Peace Corps volunteers, whose collaboration with Malagasy communities fosters peace and friendship between our two countries.
This year, we also celebrate the seventy fifth anniversary of the Fulbright program. Since 1946, Malagasy scholars who have studied in the United States under the Fulbright program have gone on to impressive careers in academia, government, civil society, and the private sector. They have also helped create mutual understanding between American and Malagasy societies. In closing, as the world reaches for solutions to eventually eradicate the COVID-19 virus, as improved treatments and vaccinations give us hope of a return to normalcy, we must re-dedicate ourselves to helping those who are the most affected amongst us.
Businesses need help to recapture their lost clientele; students need help to catch up on missed educational opportunities; the poorest of the poor need help to find their feet again. This is true in the United States, in Madagascar, and in many other countries around the world.
While this last year has brought more than its share of challenges, let us remember the saying that it is darkest before the dawn. Our nations have lived through many periods of uncertainty before, and we have come through them with stronger spirits.
Together, we can achieve much more than we can accomplish on our own.
This unusual July 4th, let us pledge to work together to a better and brighter future. Mpirahalahy mianala isika; ianao tokiko, izaho tokinao!
… full speech in malagasy (PDF 136K)