Cablegate: Letter From President O. Obasanjo to President

Published: Tue 22 Jun 2004 04:27 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. Following is the text of a letter from President Olusegun
Obasanjo to President George W. Bush. Original will be sent
by pouch.
2. Begin text.
His Excellency,
President George W. Bush,
The White House,
1600 Pennsylvania Ave,
Washington, DC 20502,
Dear President
It is with great pleasure that I am writing to introduce you
to the Pan African Health Foundation (PAHF). This new
international non-profit (501 (c) 3) initiative will address
the large and growing burden of infectious diseases in Africa
in a new and lasting way. It is currently supported by my
government, the Nigerian and U.S. private sector and other
foreign companies operating in Nigeria. I would be very
honoured if the US government decides to participate in this
critical project as well. I have outlined below, for your
consideration, information about PAHF and its relevance to
the growing burden of disease in Africa.
One of humanity's most pressing issues is how not only to
reduce Africa's disease burden, but also how to stop it from
worsening. Infectious diseases are the leading cause of death
in Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that
10.5 million children in poor nations died before the age of
five in 2002. The majority of these deaths were caused by
preventable or treatable infectious diseases, including 1.9
million from respiratory infections, (including Tuberculosis
(TB), and 1.1 million from Malaria. Additionally, HIV/AIDS
takes the lives of 14,000 people every day, including 2,000
children and this pandemic is growing.
The human suffering due to these diseases is devastating. The
economic impact of this burden is less well known, but is
also staggering: for example, the WHO estimates that Africa's
GDP would be US$12 billion greater each year if malaria were
eradicated. In addition to decreasing productivity, disease
tears at the fabric of society by straining families -
millions of children are orphaned each year, and millions of
parents lose their children to disease. As you have often
indicated, without strong families, social well-being and
political stability are compromised. The above facts also
convey a crucial message - sustainable development is
feasible in Africa only if Africa tames the infectious
diseases that are disempowering its people.
A major factor in the spread of disease throughout Africa is
that essential medical supplies to prevent or treat these
infectious diseases are often unavailable or unaffordable.
The traditional intenational aid approach has been to donate
these supplies in times of crisis. While this approach
provides temporary solutions, it falls short of the ideal
situation in which African countries become self-sufficient.
PAHF's approach moves toward this ideal by developing
self-sustaining solutions to Africa's high level of
infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, malaria, and
tuberculosis. To achieve this goal, PAHF will support the
construction of production facilities for essential medical
supplies within Africa. Each factory will be operated by a
local not-for-profit group to create African ownership. PAHF
is also working with international leaders in the for profit,
not-for-profit and government sectors to develop and ensure
best standards and practices in order to guarantee that the
factories are managed and operated in line with international
best practices. Furthermore, we will work with all parties to
ensure that the products safely reach their targeted
PAHF will provide the funding for factory construction and
initial operating capital. Each factory will then operate on
a not-for-profit, self-sustaining basis, with all revenues
from product sales re-invested into the factory to guarantee
continuous operation. With no obligations to repay loans or
provide profits to shareholders, PAHF sponsored factories
will be able to sell their products well below market prices.
Thus, PAHF's approach decreases our dependency on the
international aid community by building local production
capacity, enabling critical technology transfers, creating
vital jobs and building self-sufficiency. I strongly believe
that the PAHF initiative offers us a unique and immediate
opportunity to demonstrate concretely, the New Partnership
for African Development's (NEPAD) goals and objectives,
including moving towards African solutions to African
PAHF is targeting essential and proven effective medical
technologies as identified by the WHO such as Auto Disable
(AD) Syringes and Insecticide-Treated Mosquito Nets (ITNs).
Not only are these supplies critical in reducing the spread
of infectious disease but they also have simple manufacturing
processes and are made from raw materials available in Africa.
PAHF's first project will be an AD syringe factory in Port
Harcourt, Nigeria. AD syringes are critical because
injections are the most common medical procedure, numbering
16 billion each year. The WHO estimates that nearly half of
all syringes are re-used in Africa, causing 1.3 million early
deaths and leading to US$ 535 million in direct medical
costs. In Nigeria, it is estimated that 10% of all new
HIV/AIDS infections are caused from blood sources, including
unsafe injections. AD syringes prevent the dangerous re-use
of syringes by ensuring that each syringe can be used only
The Port Harcourt syringe factory will produce 135 million
syringes each year, providing safe injections and
immunisations four our children. In the words of the Hon. Dr.
Louis Sullivan, former Secretary of Health and Human Services
and a Board Member of the Pan African Health Foundation, this
factory will help ensure that "parents will no longer be
faced with the fear that their children will become ill
because of an immunisation that was meant to protect them".
Additionally, this project, through job creation and a
demonstrated commitment to the local population, will help
increase stability in this oil-producing region and bring
significant lasting benefits to the people of Port Harcourt
and Nigeria as a whole.
As you know, due to Nigeria's limited budget for public
spending, we directly support very few not-for-profit
organizations. However, PAHF's approach differs greatly from
traditional charity work and is very much in line with our
own development objectives. We also believe that PAHF will
bring large and lasting benefits to the Port Harcourt
community, and Nigeria as a whole. We are, therefore,
supporting PAHF with a donation of 200,000.000 Naira
(approximately US$1.5 million). Additionally, the Rivers
State has generously donated four hectares of land for the
project. It is our hope that this project can usher in a new
standard for development assistance.
It is my great hope that your government will consider
joining us in this important initiative. I hope you will
consider dedicating funds from your Emergency Plan for AIDS
Relief for this project. Your government's support, either
directly, or an a matching funds basis, will greatly expedite
PAHF's ability to raise the US$20 million necessary for the
AD syringe project. Additionally, given that PAHF is a
public-private partnership, we would also greatly appreciate
if you could use your good offices to encourage the private
sector to participate. The sooner this project is built, the
sooner our children can expect safe injections.
Thank you, while I look forward to receiving your response on
your potential involvement in this project.
Yours sincerely
Olusegun Obasanjo
End text.
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