Speech by U. S. Ambassador Peter Henry Barlerin On the occasion of the 16th Annual Meeting on Surveillance, Preparedness and Response to Meningitis

Speech by U. S. Ambassador Peter Henry Barlerin

On the occasion of the 16th Annual Meeting on Surveillance, Preparedness and Response to Meningitis Outbreaks in Africa & 6th Meeting of MenAfriNet Partners

October 22, 2019

Yaoundé, Cameroon


Mr. Minister,

Members of Government of all the countries represented here today,

Ladies and Gentlemen;

This is the sixteenth meeting on meningitis epidemics in Africa and the sixth meeting of MenAfriNet partners.

The United States is committed to working with governments and implementing partners to improve the health of children, women, and men in sub-Saharan Africa, and strengthen health systems.

If we have a healthy population, children can go to school, grow up strong, and become the leaders of tomorrow.

Women and men can work to provide for their families and make a meaningful contribution to society.

Communities can be healthy and prosperous.

Human capital is every country’s greatest resource, and it’s why we are investing in the well-being of many countries represented here today.

During a meeting hosted by Cameroon in September 2008, Ministers of Health from the 26 countries of the meningitis belt here in sub-Saharan Africa signed the Yaoundé Declaration on Elimination of Meningococcal Meningitis Type A.

Countries pledged to strengthen surveillance, assess risks, organize prevention, detection, and response campaigns with a new meningococcal A conjugate vaccine, and fast track introduction of that vaccine into routine immunization programs.

As a follow-on to that historic meeting, many countries of the African meningitis belt used the Declaration’s framework to establish their own Emergency Operations Centers and have created Incident Management Systems aimed at strengthening preparedness.

Over the years, we’ve seen real successes in the fight against meningitis.

It’s worth noting that, starting in 2011, Cameroon was among the first countries to protect people living in regions at high risk of meningitis with this new vaccine.

To date, more than 300 million people have been vaccinated in the meningitis belt of sub-Saharan Africa.

Thanks to the efforts of health care professionals like many of you in this room, Serogroup A meningitis has been successfully controlled through mass vaccination campaigns.

Monitoring of epidemiological data and the results of several studies have demonstrated the significant impact of the new meningococcal A conjugate vaccine.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been a key partner in meeting these challenges.

The foundation is an undeniable leader in the application of science and technology to save lives, particularly through investments in the fight against infectious diseases in Africa.

The foundation’s commitment shows the potential of partnerships between governments, international organizations, and private sector initiatives, and should be a source of motivation for us all.

I want to note the foundation’s work on the development of new vaccines and the establishment of regional and international networks in health such as the Meningitis Vaccine project and the MenAfriNet Consortium.

In spite of the tremendous progress, eliminating epidemic meningitis in Africa is not yet a reality.

Other serogroups continue to affect the region, including the largest global outbreak of serogroup C in Nigeria in 2017, resulting in over eleven hundred deaths.

This meeting on surveillance and preparedness is an opportunity to develop strategies to strengthen prevention, detection, and response to epidemic meningitis.

Mr. Minister, I would like to recognize a couple of people here with us today.

Dr. LeAnne Fox, Chief of CDC’s Meningitis and Vaccine Preventable Diseases Branch,

Dr. Ryan Novak, Director of MenAfriNet at CDC, and

Dr. Kainne Dokubo and the entire, dedicated, fantastic staff of CDC Cameroon.

I congratulate WHO, CDC, and the MenAfriNet Consortium for organizing this meeting on meningitis .

Use this opportunity to share experiences, to exchange best practices, and go back to your homes even more driven to carry out the great work that you do every day to save lives.

Thank you.