Ambassador Fitzpatrick’s Remarks at Covid-19 Response Handover Ceremony at Comoro Clinic

Good morning!

My respects to:

  • UNICEF Country Representative, Valerie Taton
  • Comoro Health Clinic Director
  • USAID Mission Director, Jim Wright

I am pleased to join UNICEF Director Valérie Taton and all of you this morning here at Comoro Clinic. Today we celebrate the collaboration between UNICEF, the United States and the Ministry of Health to help Timor-Leste fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

I want to congratulate the Ministry of Health, the government, and the people of Timor-Leste on their successful efforts thus far to avoid the spread of COVID-19 in Timor-Leste.

Timor Leste’s many dedicated health workers and first responders deserve our special thanks. As we know, total cases were low and there have been no more cases since April.

However, as Timor-Leste’s leaders have said, this is no time to let down our guard. The virus is still plaguing the world and COVID-19 is surging in many countries, including neighboring Indonesia. Everyone needs to continue to practice good hand hygiene, physical distancing and needs to wear a mask when close to other people.

The COVID-19 virus is strong, but we have to be stronger. That’s why the work UNICEF is doing with support from the United States is so important. USAID announced a $500,000 award for UNICEF last month.   This award is supporting risk communication, community engagement, and infection control and water and sanitation in several municipalities – and here at Comoro Clinic.

This project is part of the $1.7 million that the United States has provided so far to support Timor-Leste’s fight against COVID-19. That amount is increasing as we are funding various other projects now and in the future such as handwashing stations, masks for school children and a generator at the Vera Cruz clinic.

The United States is also the largest contributor to multilateral organizations fighting COVID-19, and those organizations are also active here in Timor-Leste. For example, USAID in Washington provided $30 million to enable the World Food Programme humanitarian flights that have already benefited Timor-Leste and other countries.

In general, the United States has supported Timor-Leste’s health sector since independence, providing over $70 million to strengthen the health system and access to health services for the Timorese people.

Today, our partnership with UNICEF helps strengthen infection prevention and control in health facilities. The project will ensure that all staff, patients, and visitors are able to manage the virus and other germs by washing their hands frequently with soap and water as well as disinfecting surfaces. These simple actions are proven weapons in the war against COVID-19.

We also need to remember that as we battle COVID-19, we must continue efforts to address other medical issues. In particular, pregnant women must continue to have regular check-ups and parents must continue to get required immunizations for their children.

Today is a day to celebrate. Thank you to UNICEF Director Valérie Taton and her staff at UNICEF for their dedicated work. I thank and applaud again the work of the government and people of Timor-Leste in confronting this public health emergency. The United States of America remains a steadfast partner with Timor-Leste in its efforts to fight COVID-19. We share Timor-Leste’s goals on its journey to self-reliance.