Strong health systems, human rights essential for Africa’s growth, says Susan Rice

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Linking success in tackling diseases in Africa to economic growth and stability on the continent, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice on Friday vowed the U.S. will continue to support country-led plans that build healthcare systems, and to “build our programs around Africa’s plan.”

“The U.S. is redefining the way we engage with Africa, not as a paternalistic patron but as permanent, equal partners,” she said.

National Security Advisory Susan Rice and Rep. Karen Bass

National Security Advisory Susan Rice and Rep. Karen Bass

This time last year, the West African Ebola outbreak was spiraling out of control, Rice said at the Africa Braintrust, part of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference, featuring panels with African leaders, policymakers, academics, advocates and industry experts.”As of last week there were only five cases,” she said, “and we will not stop until we get to zero.”

Improving Africa’s health is an essential part of the U.S. commitment to driving Africa’s growth, and accelerating progress against HIV is a part of that commitment, along with ending preventable child and maternal deaths, and providing millions of children with nutritional services, Rice said.

“Africa’s rise is not only important for Africa, but for the entire world,” Rice said, quoting President Obama on his recent trip to the continent. “No longer do we view African through a prism of poverty,” she said, “but we see an Africa brimming with potential.”

To a largely African audience, Rice spoke to an issue that has been sensitive in the wake of anti-homosexuality legislation and actions in Uganda, Nigeria and other countries. “Empowering the most vulnerable is the cornerstone to our commitment in the region,” she said.

“The United States speaks out on behalf of Africa’s daughters and their right to grow up without being forced into early marriages, without being mutilated, without being abused,” she said to loud applause from the standing room only crowd. “We speak out for our African LGBT brothers and sisters, and their right to equal treatment under the law,” she continued. “We make clear that every government has a responsibility to protect the human rights and the safety of all of its people.”

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