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Zambia: In Zambia, US Treasury Chief Reiterates US Commitment to Global Health

Lusaka, Zambia — U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is in Zambia to highlight joint efforts to improve global health and meet with President Hakainde Hichilema.

A day after her arrival in the country, Yellen inaugurated the newly built, U.S.-funded Zambia National Public Health Institute. The institute was established to help Zambia prevent transmission of deadly diseases like COVID-19, monitor threats to public health and effectively respond to any outbreaks.

Yellen said health security has been a key pillar of the partnership between Zambia and the U.S. over the past two decades.

It’s important to sustainably finance public health institutions, she said, as the cost of preparedness is lower than the cost of responding to an outbreak once it starts.

Yellen said the U.S. remains committed to improving regional and global health security through its $450 million contribution to the newly launched Pandemic Fund.

“Let me say how much we value our partnership; how important it is for the individual efforts and Africa as a whole and [the] global health situation,” she said. “We have had a long partnership, and I think it’s been a productive one. It’s important for it to continue.”

Earlier on Monday, Yellen visited Mylan Laboratory’s distribution center in Lusaka.

Mylan Laboratory is a U.S. firm that employs 75 workers in Zambia, helping to distribute antimalarial and antiretroviral treatments.

While Yellen visited the facilities Monday, Africa Centers for Disease Control Director Ahmed Ogwell Ouma put out a live virtual message to the visiting secretary, commending the U.S. government for its massive investment in global health.

Ouma emphasized the need for the local manufacturing of drugs to deal with health challenges in Africa.

“Local production is very key to the health security of the continent and by extension, for the whole globe,” he said. “And investing in well-selected manufacturing facilities for different health products from diagnostics, therapeutics to vaccines is really, really important for the way in which we are going to be handling outbreaks and, God forbid, another pandemic.”

Yellen also expressed confidence that Zambia’s debt-restructuring process will be concluded soon, adding that this is in the interest of creditors as well, as Zambia faces a delay in the process.

This follows the International Monetary Fund’s approval of a $1.3 billion bailout last August, aimed at kickstarting the country’s ailing economy and restructuring its debt.