U.S. Ambassador Thomas F. Daughton remarks at the Onjuva Clinic Opening, June 13, 2017
It is an honor for me to be here today on the auspicious occasion of the long-awaited opening of the Onjuva Clinic.
You may have noticed a plaque near the entrance to the clinic. The plaque reads, “The construction of this building was supported by the Government of the United States through the U.S. Department of Defense.” Some of you may even have wondered why the United States Department of Defense is involved in a project like this. In fact, the U.S. Defense Department has a long and distinguished history of partnering and providing support at the community level. It also has a humanitarian assistance program that seeks to build host nation capacity while addressing humanitarian needs. Projects supported by this program bring assistance directly to people in need, at the local community level.
This clinic and the accompanying residence are one of several projects our Department of Defense has helped fund in Namibia. Other projects have included the Endombo elementary school near Oshakati, multipurpose community centers in Ongwediva and Walvis Bay, and a borehole for the community of Gove, 30 kilometers west of Rundu. Why do this sort of thing, you ask? Because no one understands better than people in the military that peace depends on basic human needs being met. And we see it as being in everyone’s interest to do what we can to build and sustain peace across Africa, including in Namibia.
As many of you know, the opening of this clinic is long overdue. This community and the surrounding area have needed it for many years. In fact, the Ministry of Health and Social Services first approached the American Embassy in Windhoek for assistance in building a clinic here in Onyuva in 2007. We were able to obtain funding to support construction from the U.S. Department of Defense, and building work began in late 2009. We invested more than 3 million Namibian dollars in the project, but then construction came to a halt in 2011 – when the buildings were about 80% finished – because of unforeseen legal complications. Unfortunately, the project remained stagnant for the next five years as we tried various legal options to resolve the impasse. Thankfully, in 2016 our partners at the Ministry of Health and Social Services decided to provide the remaining funds and complete the project. In other words, the construction of this clinic truly has been a joint venture. For that, I want to thank the Honorable Minister in particular, because without his leadership and initiative, we would not be opening this facility today.
I also want to acknowledge the challenges faced by this community as you patiently waited for this day to come. So let me thank the people of Onjuva for your patience. It is my sincere hope that this facility, and the medical personnel who staff it, will bring you the medical care and treatment you deserve but have not been able to access here before now.
This clinic symbolizes the close partnership between the Ministry of Health and the U.S. government. It is a partnership that has been incredibly successful over the years in working to control the impact of HIV and AIDS in Namibia. That partnership has many other aspects to it, as well, and this clinic symbolizes one important strategy that has been central to our partnership: put simply, we are trying to bring health care services as close as we can to people’s homes.
The United States is the largest foreign contributor to Namibian healthcare, primarily through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. But it is the Namibian government, through the Ministry of Health and Social Services, that invests the majority of health funding in this country, and that investment is what allows Namibians to receive services closer to their communities. Together, my government and the government of Namibia have been combating HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases with great success. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Ministry of Health and Social Services, and to working together with the Ministry in seeking community-based solutions and health service provision throughout Namibia. This clinic is just the latest example of America’s commitment to health in Namibia and worldwide.