For Immediate Release
November 3, 2023
U.S. Embassy in Freetown
Ambassador Hunt Remarks for 2023 Mosquito Net Mass Distribution Campaign Launch Event
Representatives from Development Partners,
Esteemed Colleagues and Friends,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Sierra Leone’s democracy and its prosperity are inextricably intertwined with the health of its population. For too long, the burden of preventable disease has set back the political, economic, and social development of this country. It is for this reason that I’m very happy and honored to join you today to launch a key health sector partnership that directly addresses one of the leading causes of mortality in the country: the free mass distribution of bed nets to prevent the spread of malaria in Sierra Leone. And I want to underscore at the outset that this is far from the first such partnership between the United States and Sierra Leone to eliminate malaria in the country. In point of fact, successive Governments of Sierra Leone have been steadfast in their commitment to eliminating malaria – partnering effectively with the United States in numerous anti-malarial campaigns and committing their own limited human and financial resources towards this effort. When we speak of governments investing in their people, this is the sort of action-oriented, long-term approach that we envision, and I offer my heartfelt congratulations on the launch of this latest campaign.
In partnership with the United States, Sierra Leone has made tremendous progress over the years combatting malaria. Together over the past six years under the President’s Malaria Initiative, we have delivered more than 4 million bed nets — our first line of defense against malaria — and this year alone we will deliver another 5 million. We have provided more than 4 million rapid tests, ensuring that people across Sierra Leone can seek early treatment for malaria, which has been shown to lead to better health outcomes. And we have provided more than 4 million doses of fast-acting treatments – saving countless lives. Thanks to our collective efforts, statistics and treatment outcomes show that health systems are stronger and the trainings that health workers have received are helping them win the fight against malaria. It is only through partnerships between the Government, civil society organizations, and development partners that Sierra Leone has been able to achieve these benchmarks of progress against the disease burden posed by malaria.
In addition, as millions of Sierra Leoneans know all too well, malaria remains one of the biggest threats to children in Sierra Leone. I’m immensely proud to say that because of our partnership in combatting malaria, fewer children today are dying in Sierra Leone than ever before. In fact, since 2017 the rate of total child mortality in Sierra Leone has decreased an astonishing 22%, in large part because of our collective efforts in combatting malaria. This is an outstanding accomplishment, about which all of us should be justifiably proud, and I am honored to be able to say that the United States Government, through the partnerships led by USAID, CDC, and the President’s Malaria Initiative, has supported this incredible progress.
Another key factor in the decline of malaria in Sierra Leone over the last six years has been the Government of Sierra Leone’s strong commitment to improving access to health services countrywide, often through the installation of community health posts. And here, too, the United States has been, and remains, Sierra Leone’s steadfast partner. We have worked closely with the government in training personnel to staff these new health posts, in financing their equipment, and in ensuring that they have the supplies necessary to operate effectively. Thanks to this partnership, children with fevers are now far more likely to be tested for malaria, and to receive the treatment they need to save their lives.
But the reason we are all here today is not only to celebrate our past successes but also to recognize that there’s still more work to be done. Malaria remains one of the biggest health challenges in Sierra Leone. Tackling it will continue to need a whole of society approach. Too many people are still unreached with lifesaving malaria interventions. We cannot curtail our efforts while anyone remains debilitated or dying from malaria. We cannot stop until there is zero malaria in Sierra Leone. No matter what the government and health experts of Sierra Leone might do to eradicate malaria, and no matter how much the United States and other partners might support these efforts, the battle against malaria will not be won unless each Sierra Leonean does their part.
Mosquito nets are proven to be an effective defense. They prevent disease and save lives, but only if individuals use them correctly and consistently. We need everyone in Sierra Leone to take responsibility for their and their families’ health and consistently and properly use the nets provided. That means every night without excuse. We also need individuals to seek immediate treatment for themselves and their children when they come down with fevers, by going to their nearest health post or government health center so that they can get tested to see if they have malaria and to receive appropriate treatment. Taking personal responsibility to help eliminate malaria in Sierra Leone will promote not only the nation’s health but also the sustained economic growth required for prosperity for all Sierra Leoneans.
It’s been exciting and gratifying to see the tremendous achievements already made in Sierra Leone in reducing illness and death due to malaria over the last decade, through our partnership and commitment. I want to commend and congratulate Sierra Leone, particularly the National Malaria Control Program, the Ministry of Health, and all of you working at the central and regional levels, for your commitment to controlling malaria and working to eliminate it once and for all. The United States Government is honored to be here for the people of Sierra Leone as we partner in this important work. Working together, we will fight to eliminate this deadly disease and achieve zero malaria in Sierra Leone, while simultaneously helping Sierra Leoneans achieve their aspirations of a democratic, healthy, and prosperous future. Thank you.