Ambassador Charles Ray | USA Embassy, Harare
Bikita, Masvingo Province
It is my pleasure to be here with you. I thank the Honorable Heya Shoko, MP for Bikita West, Mr. Edgar Seenza, District Administrator, Dr. Seelhofer, Medical Superintendent of Silveira Hospital, Shepherd Tofarasei and Stanley Chabvepi, members of the Masvingo Province chapter of People Living Positively with HIV and AIDS and the community for inviting me to be with you on this occasion.
I am with you today to open this grinding mill, donated by the American people through the Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Program and the African Development Foundation. The second grinding mill, donated by the American people, is located approximately three kilometers from where we are standing. We are pleased to provide both grinding mills because we know they will support self reliance and improve the standard of living for members of this group and their families.
The stigma and discrimination of living with HIV and AIDS is profound and the negative economic impact is devastating. HIV and AIDS is not a stand-alone condition, but exists within a wider socio-economic environment and often increases the vulnerability of households, communities, and nations. But I do not need to tell members of this group about that. By supporting this project through the Self-Help Program the American people support the initiatives of the people of Zimbabwe, and specifically, the people of Bikita.
The Ambassador’s Self-Help Program in Zimbabwe, created in 1980, was designed to aid projects like the one we are here to celebrate today. The program seeks to improve basic economic or social conditions at the grassroots level in local communities or villages. It also supports high impact, quick implementation activities that benefit the community at large.
The Self-Help Program identifies and funds projects in all ten (10) Provinces including Harare and Bulawayo. Examples of currently funded projects include the construction of a workshop in Harare; the purchase of garden tools, seeds, and payment for the construction of a borehole in the Midlands and; the provision of peanut butter processing equipment in Manicaland.
There is another reason I am pleased to be here today. It gives me great pleasure to announce a brand new initiative that will likely be of interest to you – the creation of a new small grants assistance fund, the Ambassador’s PEPFAR Small Grants Program. PEPFAR is the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – our worldwide commitment to ending the rule of this devastating disease.
The United States remains fully committed and engaged with Zimbabwe in the fight against HIV/AIDS through PEPFAR, including through significant support for the Government of Zimbabwe’s scale up of antiretroviral treatment. In 2010 the number of people receiving ARVs with direct PEPFAR funding increased to 59,000 up from 40,000 in 2009. PEPFAR’s 2011 budget for Zimbabwe is increasing by more than 20 percent (US$10 million) over this current year to a total of US$ 57 million. Much of that increase came from President Obama’s pledge of assistance to Zimbabwe.
The new PEPFAR Small Grants Program will concentrate its support in the area of Care and Support for people infected and affected by HIV.
With this new infusion of dollars, we will be able to build on your success and others like it. These additional dollars will allow us to fund more projects like ones we have funded in the past but with a focus on Zimbabweans infected with or affected by the disease. For instance, we could buy a peanut butter making mill for HIV positive women to run in Gutu and an irrigation project for a nutritional garden run by women widowed as a result of AIDS in Midlands – and new types of projects as well.
We applaud your efforts and know that you will continue to set a shining example to others. In addition to providing needed income to the group’s members, the grinding mill will allow you to provide an important service to others in Bikita, especially others within the community living with HIV and AIDs. I am told that these community members grind their maize at this mill for a reduced fee. What a wonderful way to pass along a gift given to you.
I am excited to share this news with you here today and hope that your project, and the many others like it, will prove to be enduring proof of America’s commitment to a strong, healthy and prosperous Zimbabwe.