Friends & Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good evening. Bonsoir.
Thank you for honoring my invitation to welcome our new Country Representative for the U.S. Agency for International Development here in Cameroon, Mr. Philippe Accilien, who arrived in January and will be with us for the next three years.
Welcome once again, Philippe.
You have stepped into a role and responsibilities with a long and rich history. In 1961, Cameroon became one of the first countries where we established a USAID presence. In the decades since, USAID has made significant contributions to Cameroon’s development through our active and collaborative partnership with the Cameroonian government and people.
Over the past six decades, USAID has contributed to major projects, including the Kumba-Mamfe road in the Southwest Region and the Trans-Cameroon railway that connects Belabo to Ngaoundéré and Yaoundé to Douala. USAID has supported the development of Cameroon’s education system, including the construction of the University Teaching Hospital of Yaoundé and the University of Dschang.
U.S. Government efforts in the development sphere, largely led by USAID, continue to this day. Our annual assistance budget for Cameroon is approximately 88 billion francs CFA, 48 percent of which provides humanitarian assistance to refugees, internally displaced persons, and their host communities across the country.
We are the largest donor of humanitarian assistance in Cameroon, and we stand ready to respond to urgent needs. Following last year’s devastating floods in the Far North, we provided relief amounting to 250 million francs CFA. When I visited the relief site for flood survivors in Yagoua on February 17, I saw first-hand the life-saving difference these funds are making. I had the opportunity to speak with two women whose homes, crops, and sources of livelihood were washed away, but who are at least able to feed their families and send their children to school due to international assistance, including through USAID.
Natural disasters are not the only cause of food insecurity. Staple food prices across Cameroon have risen by 20 to 35 percent over the past year – due in part to the war in Ukraine – with the result being higher levels of hunger and food insecurity for thousands of Cameroonians. USAID has responded with more than 10.6 million kilograms of rice, vegetable oil, and split peas to people in need.
USAID also provides significant assistance in the health sector. In fact, 49 percent of our USAID programming goes towards strengthening Cameroon’s health system by increasing the capacity of central and decentralized health institutions to respond to diseases including malaria, neglected tropical diseases, and HIV/AIDS.
I spent several days last week at a planning conference in Johannesburg for the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, at which several of Philippe’s USAID staff members as well as their colleagues from other U.S. Government agencies worked collaboratively with representatives of the Cameroonian government, civil society, and international partners to sketch out how we intend to approach HIV prevention, care, and treatment in Cameroon over the next two years.
Already, the PEPFAR program has provided critical prevention, care, and treatment services to hard-to-reach populations; care and support for orphans and vulnerable children; and health system strengthening by improving supply chain systems, community-led monitoring of health services, and sustainable financing. USAID’s role is critical to this effort, and I am confident that under Philippe’s leadership, we will make even greater inroads towards our common goal of achieving epidemic control in Cameroon by 2025.
In addition to my trip to Johannesburg, last week also marked my first anniversary as U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon. During this past year, I’ve had the privilege of visiting communities throughout this beautiful country where USAID projects and programs are providing services to victims of sexual and gender-based violence; facilitating shipments of medications for HIV and other illnesses; and combating river blindness.
In the same February visit to the Far North that I mentioned earlier, I joined multiple local and regional officials in Maroua to launch our new USAID-funded Community Resilience Support Program (PARC-Cameroun) that is designed to strengthen communities’ ability to contend with a wide range of challenges but particularly that of violent extremism, with which the people of the Far North Region have been contending for nearly a decade. This project puts young people and women at the center of processes to identify and respond appropriately to community priorities, encourages locally led development, and empowers communities to set their own agendas and develop solutions through a strong civil society.
So as is probably obvious by now, from just these few examples I’ve shared with you this evening, our USAID programs are touching thousands of Cameroonians every day in a wide variety of ways. Philippe Accilien, as our new USAID Country Representative, will be at the center of this effort over the coming years, together with his amazing team of experts from the United States, Cameroon, and a couple of other countries as well.
And they will do this in the spirit of partnership that is at the core of USAID’s efforts worldwide. Partnership with other U.S. Government agencies, with the Government of Cameroon, with civil society and non-governmental organizations, with others in the international community, with the private sector, and most importantly with the Cameroonian people.
Philippe… USAID leadership and I hold you in the highest regard, and we look forward to the great things I know you will accomplish during your time here. Once again, I am delighted to welcome you to this beautiful country. Bienvenue.