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PAHF USA Hosts Inaugural Dinner


September 22, 2003 (New York, NY) … H.E. President Olusegun Obasanjo, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Grand Patron of PAHF Nigeria, hosted the Pan African Health Foundation USA’s inaugural dinner in New York City.

The dinner, held at the Millennium United Nations Plaza Hotel, aimed to raise awareness of and interest in PAHF in the United States. Guests included business leaders, public figures, healthcare and development activists, and the media.

President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria (left) is welcomed to New York City by former Mayor David Dinkins for PAHF USA's inaugural dinner in September 2003.

The Hon. Walter C. Carrington, former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, served as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies. Speakers included PAHF Chairman, Mr. Yuichi Ishimaru; the Hon. Louis W. Sullivan, M.D., President Emeritus, Morehouse School of Medicine and Former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services; Mr. Gerhard Fischer, Chairman, Panalpina World Transport; the Hon. James Harmon, Founder, Harmon & Co., and Former Chairman and President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States; and Mr. Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator, United Nations Development Program.

President Obasanjo delivered the keynote address. He emphasized the message that many others also shared throughout the evening: “We cannot afford to wait.”

The evening began with a brief letter from PAHF UK Co-Patron, the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Harewood (who was unable to attend), in which the Earl outlined his dedication to PAHF. As one of PAHF’s key supporters in the United Kingdom, the Earl described his initial reaction to PAHF as enthusiastic. He then urged the guests to join him in supporting the organization, which he termed “a positive initiative to stem the spread of HIV.”

Mr. Yuichi Ishimaru described the development of the PAHF concept. His experience in Africa, he recounted, had led him to realize the “striking gap that exists between advanced countries and African nations.” While he felt compelled to help close this gap, his business background led him to question the temporary nature of existing development approaches. He wanted to make a “lasting difference.” Several discussions with President Obasanjo resulted in the concept for PAHF as a novel approach: “a long-term solution to address the long-term nature of Africa's disease burden,” in Ishimaru’s words.

Next, Dr. Louis Sullivan described “the urgent need to reduce Africa’s tragic disease burden.” He explained that effective and affordable technologies — “proven life-saving technologies” — exist to reduce this burden. Those technologies, including PAHF-selected auto-disable (AD) syringes, can make a huge impact on the lives of many African children. He urged the universal availability of AD syringes so that “parents will no longer be faced with the devastation of their child becoming ill because of an immunization that was meant to protect them.”

Mr. Gerhard Fischer called on the business community to take a more active role in supporting Africa. He told the audience that it is our social responsibility to reduce Africa’s disease burden, but that doing so is also necessary for businesses to succeed in Africa. “The 8,000 Africans that HIV/AIDS kills every day are our customers, workers, partners, and friends,” Fischer pointed out.

The Hon. James Harmon, just finishing his role as Chairman of the Commission on Capital Flows to Africa, stressed that “we must more fully integrate Africa into the global economy.” He appealed to the public and private sectors to work together to provide both investment capital and human capital to Africa: “The greatest potential lies in what the private sector can do for Africa.” PAHF strives to accomplish this goal, he said, as the organization brings both infrastructure and better health.

In his keynote address, President Obasanjo outlined the severity of Africa’s disease burden but also focused on the wealth of African resources and the opportunities for positive action. The President stated that Africa has vast untapped natural and human resources. The first step in realizing the continent’s potential, he noted, is to reduce the staggeringly high levels of morbidity and mortality. President Obasanjo asserted “sustainable development is feasible in Africa only if Africa tames the infectious diseases that disempower its people. … New frontiers need to be opened in the fight against these crippling diseases.”

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