Remarks by Deputy Chief of Mission MaryKay L. Carlson at GHSA annual meeting

Good morning!  Thank you for your warm welcome.  I am very pleased to join you on behalf of the U.S. Embassy for today’s GHSA annual meeting.  The word impressive seems like an understatement when it comes to describing India’s many achievements under the Global Health Security Agenda from its beginning in 2014 to the present—especially the progress made since we last came together for an annual review meeting in November 2016.

Health is a key area of collaboration between our two countries that underlies our strategic relationship.  Given the high volume of global trade and travel, ensuring the health and wellbeing of our citizens has become increasingly difficult.  This is why the Global Health Security Agenda remains so important—it allows us to increase our shared ability to prevent, detect, and respond to disease threats that occur at an international level.  As GHSA Steering Group members, the United States and India are both leading the charge to build global capacity to counter infectious disease threats.

One remarkable example of India’s capacity building efforts over the past year is your work across both the animal and human sectors to address antimicrobial resistance, a key threat to global health security and modern medicine.  ICMR, NCDC, WHO, and other partners have worked together to develop a National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance, expand and link surveillance networks, and establish an external quality assurance program to detect and respond to hospital-acquired infections and AMR threats.  The United States is proud to be a partner in these front-line efforts through our teams at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and others, and we look forward to continuing to support this work in 2018.

In addition to its foundational role in our relationship, one reason health is such an important shared responsibility for our two countries is the danger outbreaks pose to people—both directly, in terms of health and safety, and indirectly, in terms of the cost to trade, economies, and people’s welfare.  We have seen the alarming costs of increasingly frequent, large-scale outbreaks many times in recent years.  Fifteen years ago, in 2003, SARS cost $30 billion in only four months.  Nine years ago, in 2009, H1N1 killed 284,000 people in its first year alone. On top of the terrible human costs, the 2014 Ebola outbreak that spurred us to create GHSA cost more than $30 billion globally.  And most recently, the social and economic costs of Zika in Latin America and the Caribbean totaled $7-18 billion between 2015 and 2017, with the heartbreaking long-term effects on children and their families remaining to be seen in the coming years.

The human and economic dangers that outbreaks pose are particularly relevant here in India.  Given the frequency of travel to and from India, an outbreak in any other country can make its way here within one or two days. Similarly, given India’s population of 1.3 billion people, an outbreak here quickly achieves global significance.  Large-scale outbreaks can also present setbacks in India’s projected growth to become the world’s fifth-largest economy this year and the third-largest economy only 10 years from now.

It is critical that we continue to work together to build health capacity as a foundational element of our relationship—through ongoing activities to prevent, detect, and respond to disease threats, as well as new activities to target resources and track our progress, such as the Joint External Evaluation process.  The United States remains committed to supporting GHSA through 2024. Together, through investments made by both governments, we can continue to make great strides in surveillance, lab strengthening, workforce development, and emergency preparedness this year and beyond. The continuing positive trajectory of our partnership in health will pay dividends not just for Indian and American citizens, but people around the world who are healthier because of our partnership and the work each of you leads side by side here every day.

Thank you for all you have done to support this vital work over the past year.  Congratulations on your achievements. We look forward to our continued progress in 2018.