Remarks by Dr. Susan Brems, Mission Director, Ribbon-Cutting and Turnover of Newly Constructed Birthing Center and TB-DOTS Facility

Friday, October 2, 2015

[As Prepared]

Good morning to all of you. I am thrilled to be here in Tacloban today and to accompany our guest from Washington, Ms. Carla Koppell. Ms. Koppell only arrived in Manila yesterday, and I am very new myself. I arrived three weeks ago. I am delighted to be the new USAID Mission Director here in the Philippines.

So let me practice my new linguistic skills on you, my first public audience outside of Manila:

Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat. (Good morning to all of you!)

How was that? I promise that I will keep on trying.

As you know, I am here in representation of the United States Agency for International Development, popularly known as USAID. USAID is the principal arm of the United States Government that offers technical and financial assistance to partner countries, such as the Philippines, and the citizens of those countries. I bring you the greetings of the Ambassador of the United States to the Philippines, Mr. Philip Goldberg.

I was working for USAID in Africa in November 2013, when Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. I remember watching on television the horrible scenes of the massive destruction in your province.

In two years you have made tremendous progress. The citizens of Tacloban can take great pride in the impressive resilience you have shown and in your determination to rebuild your city. You have clearly bounced back.

The credit for these achievements belongs to all of you -- the local government, civil society organizations, citizens and the private sector. USAID is proud to be associated with the international response that has been able to support some of this work.

It is part of that support that brings us together today. We are here to inaugurate the newly constructed Birthing Center and tuberculosis facility of Diit District. This health facility is a gift from the American people, in a symbol of solidarity and friendship to our sisters and brother in the Philippines.

If you look at the logo of USAID, you will see that it says “From the American People.” It is true that we in USAID channel the funds, but this is a people-to-people bond. Our support is a testament to the unwavering commitment of partnership and support from your friends in the United States.

In fact, the United States has provided nearly $143 million for humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation for the areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda.

The Diit District Birthing Center and tuberculosis facility is the second such site to be completed. Altogether, 12 health facilities will be built in Leyte Province. These new facilities are made to withstand typhoons and earthquakes, so that the devastation that occurred in 2013 does not happen again. We have also contributed some medical equipment, making it possible for the structure to go into use right away.

You may also know that USAID is partnering with local authorities to build 250 classrooms in Leyte Province. Earlier today, our guest Ms. Koppel inaugurated five newly constructed school classrooms here in Panalaron Central School.

USAID is also helping small entrepreneurs, particularly sari-sari store owners, get back on their feet by building 1,000 stores and supplying them with goods to sell. This is a partnership with U.S. private companies Procter & Gamble and Coca Cola.

And we are also helping farmers and fisher folk with planting and aquaculture materials and training that will help them produce alternative crops and high-value species of aquaculture.

With this new facility and equipment, the City Health Office will be able to provide safe and quality birthing services and TB treatment for patients. The commitment of the Department of Health staff to fight TB has already led to more cases being diagnosed and treated; now they can do even more in this area.

With all of this, I would ask you to remember one thing: A health facility is only useful if people use it. No government and no donor can make people healthy if citizens do not take action themselves to protect and promote their health. A structure is just a structure. It is you, the health providers and the citizen clients, who can make this center a dynamic and effective place.

Health providers: Live up to your creed of quality service every day and take pride in your profession.

Citizens: Understand that your health is in your hands. Make use of this center. Have it work for you.

Let me end by reaffirming the commitment of the U.S. Government and the American people to help rebuild this city and region and foster a prosperous and democratic society.

Thank you so much for your attention. I’ll finish as I began, with my first words in Filipino:

Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat! (Thank you so much to all of you!)

Issuing Country