Honorable Minister for Health, Senator Lizzie Nkosi
The CEO of Business Eswatini
The CEO of Eswatini Business Health
USG Officials and implementing partners present
The Executive Director, NERCHA,
Business Support Organizations and members of the business community
Captains of Industry,
Members of all media houses,
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen
It is my pleasure to join you today for this event.
I am struck by how much our world has fundamentally changed in the two and a half years since COVID-19 first entered our lexicon. We all had to adapt to mask mandates and travel restrictions. Many people – especially those fortunate enough to have flexible jobs – had to adapt to working from home or navigating virtual schooling. We had to make difficult decisions around how and when to visit our friends and loved ones.
Managers had to carefully navigate shifting public health policies to keep their businesses afloat. Many businesses struggled to survive. Many employees – particularly those who were considered ‘essential workers’ – had no choice but to report to work despite the risks of getting COVID-19, and potentially bringing it home to their families. We know that women were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
We realized that we are all global citizens. We came to grips with lessons learned by previous generations: that pandemics will roil economies and respect no borders. We were all desperate for ways to start clawing back to a sense of normalcy, to start fully reopening the economy. Relief emerged in the form of COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccine development itself was a testament to the ingenuity and industriousness of the private sector.
In Eswatini, the business community, under the leadership of the Ministry of Commerce and Business Eswatini, had already been a strong supporter of the Kingdom’s COVID-19 response.
When we began to discuss a partnership to bring vaccines to businesses and the communities they support, Business Eswatini, through Eswatini Business Health and Wellness (or “EBH”) mobilized decisively. Born of a shared interest to protect employees, customers, and to get the economy back on track, a partnership rapidly came together that leveraged the capacities of the public, private, and non-governmental sectors to deliver health services at scale.
Supported by USAID partner The Luke Commission (or “TLC”), EBH led an effort that administered over 70,000 vaccine doses within workplaces. Impressively, 40 percent of all vaccine doses have been administered through this partnership, bringing vaccines to people directly in their communities. The partnership’s impact has been amplified with EBH and TLC teams recently serving more than 2,000 people per month with workplace health services. It has been a model for the potential of public-private partnerships.
The U.S. government is proud to have supported this robust COVID response in Eswatini through providing vaccines and technical and clinical support, and by building collaborative partnerships. We are here today to celebrate that collaboration, to recognize the businesses that championed high vaccination rates in their workforces, and to launch a partnership that will expand access to critical health services – including those for COVID-19 – for the private sector.
New to the partnership and building on their work to help upgrade the high-care capacity at key health facilities, Right to Care is adding tangible resources through EBH to help get vaccines to people quickly, equitably, and conveniently. Combined with ongoing support from TLC, EBH will redouble efforts to help businesses of all sizes reach the 70 percent vaccine coverage rate goal, including small- and medium-size enterprises.
Because we know that while some of us might think we are ‘done’ with COVID-19, the virus is not done with us.
Vaccination rates for youths have lagged, at less than 15 percent. While we have made great progress, we can do more, together, to defeat COVID-19. We need your help in urging your employees, colleagues and loved ones to follow your lead in getting vaccinated.
Ultimately, through these complementary efforts to the country’s vaccination campaign, and together with you, we can achieve the victory – that the people of Eswatini will continue to get vaccinated, uphold all COVID-19 protocols, advocate for vaccination, and get their booster shots. This way, we can protect ourselves and everyone around us.
More broadly, the U.S. government will continue to collaborate with the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini towards ending pandemic threats and expanding access to health services. We are proud to invest in the future of emaSwati by addressing health threats such as HIV and COVID-19, and by the same token we must also work together to help Eswatini heal from the recent civil unrest.
We look to the government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to communicate details on preparations for the national dialogue it committed to support. In the meantime, emaSwati need not wait to engage now in meaningful, inclusive, and peaceful community-level dialogue to build understanding and trust. Working together, the citizens of this country can identify shared values and goals, and support a process that will promote healing for the entire country. This is a moment of historic importance in Eswatini.
We value the technical, financial, and commercial contributions of the private sector in addressing socio-economic challenges to improve the quality of life for all emaSwati and we look forward to helping in these efforts every way we can.
I thank you.