Closeout Ceremony of the Morbidity Management and Disability Prevention (MMDP) Project

Ambassador Barlerin’s speech Closeout Ceremony of the Morbidity Management and Disability Prevention (MMDP) Project (as prepared for delivery)

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

  • Your Excellency, Dr. Malachie Manaouda, Minister of Public Health,
  • Honored Guests,

It is an honor to be with you today.

We’re here to talk about two neglected tropical diseases:  trachoma and lymphatic filariasis.

People affected by neglected tropical diseases like these two often live in impoverished, hard-to-reach communities, where life is already difficult.  

Poor vision, disability, or other complications can make it tough to work or go to school, limiting opportunities to make life better for families and communities.  Too many people are stigmatized socially as well.

The U.S. government, through USAID’s Neglected Tropical Diseases Program, is partnering with Cameroon to stop these devastating diseases, and to help improve life for people living with complications from these diseases.

I would like to single out, for those of you who don’t already know them, Dr. Mounkaila Billo, who is based here in Yaoundé, and Aryc Mosher, who is visiting from Washington, D.C., and who I first met before coming to Cameroon, a year and a half ago.

Together with the Government of Cameroon, Mounkaila and Aryc through our partners have distributed over 253 million treatments to those at risk of active infection across Cameroon.

And through the generous donation of American companies like Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and the British GlaxoSmithKline, an estimated $380 million in medicine has been leveraged for those treatments in Cameroon alone.

That’s right, ladies and gentleman, 380 million U.S. dollars’ worth of drugs have been donated by private pharmaceutical companies in Cameroon alone to combat these neglected tropical diseases.

In just a few short years, Cameroon progressed from focused drug delivery and mass drug administration for 22 endemic trachoma and 137 lymphatic filariasis districts to demonstrating initial evidence that the communities in these districts are no longer at risk from these diseases.

The national program is dedicated to following World Health Organization guidelines for elimination of trachoma, and final confirmatory surveys of elimination are wrapping up for trachoma-endemic districts here.

The fight against lymphatic filariasis is on a similar track for success.

Eliminating active infection of trachoma and lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem is only half of the battle to achieve validation of our elimination goals.

It’s also important to demonstrate plans to manage the long-term health complications, or morbidities, that people living with these two diseases are affected by.

The Morbidity Management and Disability Prevention Project has supported 25 Cameroonian surgeons to perform 887 trichiasis surgeries and 106 hydroceles.

While this project is coming to a close, the U.S. government’s commitment will continue through a new program seeking to end Neglected Tropical Diseases in Cameroon and 10 other West and Central African countries.

This five year USAID program will be led by North Carolina-based Family Health International 360.  I believe Stephanie Palmer is here representing FHI 360.  Stand up and say hello, Stephanie.  Thank you.

Like the Morbidity Management and Disability Prevention Project it is coming along behind, the new project will be implemented by Helen Keller International.

Ladies and gentleman, I am so pleased to be here on this day to say goodbye to a highly successful project and say hello to a new one.

But I cannot waste this opportunity to say thank you to the Minister of Health for something else he recently did, and that was to remove user fees for those seeking HIV/AIDS services.

Ensuring free information and services to those impacted by HIV/AIDS is a  demonstration of your commitment to achieving epidemic control by 2021.

Thank you, Mr. Minister, for taking this bold step.  We’ll work with you through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to achieve epidemic control.

In closing, let it no longer be said that diseases like trachoma and lymphatic filariasis are neglected.

Let us look forward to that day when we can truly talk about them in the past tense.

Thank you and congratulation