Cablegate: Hhs Secretary Leavitt's Visit to Mali

DE RUEHBP #0835/01 2910545
R 170545Z OCT 08 ZDS




E.O. 12958: N/A


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1.(U) Summary. U.S. Secretary of Health and Human
Services (HHS) Michael O. Leavitt's August 13 to 16, 2008
visit to Mali reinforced the United States' strong support
for the health sector in this country and, in particular,
for malaria eradication and research. Visiting several
sites throughout Mali, the Secretary observed and
participated in PMI activities designed to reduce malarial
deaths in Mali by fifty percent under President Bush's
Malaria Initiative (PMI). In meetings with Malian
President Amadou Toumani Toure, Minister of Health Oumar
Ibrahima Toure, local officials, researchers and
practitioners, the Secretary heard first-hand how PMI
malaria- eradication efforts are affecting Malians at all
levels. He also received thanks from the Malian government
and community officials and for the U.S. Government's
commitment to malarial research and eradication. In a very
moving ceremony on August 14, at the Embassy in Bamako,
Secretary Leavitt presented a Jefferson Star to the husband
and children of Kellie Lartigue, who died in Mali in
December 2007 while serving as the in-country Director for
the HHS Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

2.(U) Summary continued. Joining the Secretary in Mali
were the President's Malaria Coordinator, Rear Admiral R.
Timothy Ziemer (U.S. Navy, ret.); Director of the HHS
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Julie
Gerberding; Special Assistant to the Secretary for
International Affairs at HHS, William Steiger; HHS
Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation Benjamin
Sasse; Deputy HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs,
Holly Babin; the Director for Africa in the HHS Office of
Global Health Affairs, Dr. Samuel Adeniyi-Jones; and
Counselor to Secretary Leavitt, Richard Campanelli. The
Regional Director for Africa of the World Health
Organization, Dr. Luis Gomes Sambo, also joined the
Secretary for most of his visit. End Summary.

Meeting with the Minister of Health

3.(SBU) The Secretary officially began his visit on
Friday, August 15, by meeting with his Malian counterpart,
Minister of Health Oumar Ibrahima Toure. During this
meeting, the Minister told the Secretary about several new
initiatives in Mali. He mentioned the development of a
telemedicine network to connect medical centers throughout
Mali, for which the Government of Mali is seeking support.
The Minister also discussed an initiative to increase
reproductive health care, including voluntary family
planning and maternal, prenatal and postnatal care.
(Comment: It remains to be seen how more traditional
elements of Malian society will greet this initiative.
Recent attempts to repeal the death penalty and change
family law to provide stronger protection for women failed
after protests led by religious leaders. End comment.) In

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addition to thanking the Minister for the cooperation in
vaccination and malaria initiatives, the Secretary shared
with the Minister that Malian Dr. Michel Sidibe would be
an excellent candidate for Executive Director of the Joint
United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), but that
it would behoove African nations to agree on a single
candidate to put forward. The Secretary and the Minister
discussed the renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU) between HHS and the University of Mali School of
Medicine and Pharmacy for the Center of Excellence in
Malaria Research. HHS has transmitted a draft of the
text to the Malian government in both English and French
and is awaiting feedback. Although the Minister of Higher
Education has jurisdiction over the University (and would
be the signatory on the MOU), Minister Toure offered to help
gain the necessary clearances with the Malian Government.
(Note: HHS has proposed doing the signing through a
Digital Video Conference later this Fall. End note.)

Commemorating a Fallen Colleague

4.(U) HHS/CDC Director Dr. Gerberding and Minister Toure
joined the Secretary in presenting the Jefferson Star for
Foreign Service to the family of HHS/CDC employee Kellie
Lartigue, who died in an automobile accident in Mali
on December 21, 2007. Secretary Leavitt praised Kellie's
devotion to combating the spread of HIV in Africa (Ref. A).
During a private meeting with the Lartigue family, the
Secretary reiterated his profound respect for the passion
Kellie brought to her work in saving lives in Africa.

Anti-Malarial Spraying

5.(U) The Secretary and his party traveled to Koulikoro,
45 miles from Bamako, to take part in a mosquito
eradication project under the PMI. After touring
a warehouse stocked with equipment supplied by the U.S.
Government for pesticide spraying inside homes, the
Secretary, along with Minister Toure, Admiral Ziemer, Dr.
Gerberding and Dr. Sambo donned protective gear to help
spray the interior of a local residence. In talking to the
press after the spraying, Secretary Leavitt expressed his
gratitude for the levels of cooperation the spraying
project has received from Malian partners and the public.
Admiral Ziemer observed that Mali's interior spraying
program is among the best-developed and executed he has

Hearing from Peace Corps Volunteers

6.(U) The Secretary and his delegation met over lunch
with four Peace Corps volunteers who are working on health
and small-enterprise development projects in Mali. The
Secretary heard specifically about malnutrition and malaria
problems the volunteers deal with on a daily basis. The
volunteers also spoke to the Secretary about challenges

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they faced at the community level when trying to improve
health care among largely illiterate, poverty-stricken

HHS Funded Research on View

7.(U) The Secretary and his delegation, again accompanied
by the Minister of Health, called on the research
laboratories at the University of Mali School of Medicine
and Pharmacy, funded by the HHS National Institutes of
Health (NIH). Included were the HIV/Tuberculosis lab,
a parisitology lab and the mosquito-breeding room. The
Secretary expressed pleasant surprise at the depth and
sophistication of anti-malarial and other research
activity underway at the school. Upon seeing a Level-3
bio-containment lab, funded by HHS, members of the
Secretary's group expressed pride the United States had
helped make such a facility available to researchers in
Western Africa.

8.(U) The Secretary then addressed a group of Malian
researchers, professors and students. After promising
to work for continued U.S. support for the malaria and
HIV/AIDS initiatives in Africa, and thanking the students
and researchers for their work, the Secretary heard from
several faculty who expressed their desires for funding
from the United States (and the Malian Government) in other
areas of public health, including potable water and mental
health. The Secretary then fielded questions from students
on several topics. One of the students asked about funding
for malaria-related basic research, as opposed to the
applied focus of PMI. Admiral Ziemer responded that other
organizations supported basic research, mentioning
specifically the Gates Foundation, and that PMI would
continue to carry out projects aimed at real-time
reductions in infections and deaths from malaria in the


9.(U) On Saturday, August 16, 2008, the Secretary,
Minister Toure, Dr. Sambo and the HHS delegation flew to
Timbuktu. After meeting with local officials, the
delegation toured a new health center, and then met with
civic leaders from the area. After reiterating the support
of the United States for health activities in Mali, the
Secretary heard from different non-governmental
organizations on their efforts in the northern part of
the country. In responding to questions, the Secretary
stated that he would push for continued funding of
malaria-eradication projects under the PMI, stressed the
importance of HIV testing, and promised to look into the
possibility of potable-water projects in the region.
(Comment: Local women were particularly vocal in their
advocacy for help to improve their communities, especially
regarding water. End comment.)

10.(U) The Secretary also met with members of a U.S.
Special Forces detachment that spent two months in northern

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Mali to provide medical and veterinary care in remote areas
in the desert. The team briefed the Secretary on their
activities in healing camels and families, and spoke of
helping to bring the Malian Government and basic health
care to places that had not seen either in some time.
Members of the Secretary,s delegation, coincidentally,
discovered in conversations with the Director of the
Provincial Hospital in Timbuktu, that teams of Cuban
health workers are stationed at that hospital and two
locations in the desert, on two-year assignments, embedded
in the communities.

11.(U) The Secretary's party then paid a courtesy call
on Abderrahmane ben Essayouti, the Grand Imam of Timbuktu.
When asked by the Secretary what was his main concern for
his followers, the Imam answered that peace and security
were the most important. The Imam added that this includes
health, and that he frequently includes messages on
HIV/AIDS, malaria and other health concerns when preaching
to his flock. The Imam then personally guided the
delegation through his partially U.S. funded library of
ancient Islamic manuscripts, some dating from the eleventh
century, and then provided a tour of the fourteenth-century
mud-walled, sand-floored Djingareyber Mosque next door.

Very Personal Insights from the President

12.(SBU) The Secretary, together with the Charge, Dr.
Adeniyi-Jones and Mr. Steiger, met with the Honorable
Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT), President of Mali,
on the evening of August 16, 2008. The President's
comments regarding the August 6 coup d'etat in neighboring
Mauritania are reported in Ref. B. After discussing
their mutual respect for the Malian-USA relationship and
intention to continue and expand cooperation, Secretary
Leavitt informed ATT of our support for Mali's candidate
Dr. Sidibe for the UNAIDS Executive Director position.
He also asked ATT about his role in the military overthrow
of Mali's former dictator, Moussa Traore, in 1991.
Secretary Leavitt asked ATT why he did what he did, what he
told his family, and how, after taking power, was ATT able
to step away from the Presidency, unlike so many others
who overthrow Governments. ATT responded he felt obliged
to take action when it became clear the Moussa Traore
regime did not understand the people's desire for democracy.
ATT said he made his final decision to oust Traore when
the military began killing citizens, including women and
children. As for his family, ATT said he gathered his
military gear, and told his wife that he simply needed to
go to his office because of the troubles. The next morning,
he called his wife to inform her he was Head of State. He
also said he and the others involved in the coup had
accomplished what they wanted, the removal of the dictatorship,
and that once a stable Government had been set up and elected,

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it was time for them to retire from the spotlight and
let democracy work its course. The Secretary wondered if
ATT intended to write a book, since his life held lessons for
many, not just in Africa but throughout the world. ATT
said he was planning on doing just that when his second and
final presidential term ends, in 2012.


13.(SBU) The visit by Secretary Leavitt demonstrably
reinforced the priority the United States places on its
relationship with Mali, particularly when it comes to
health and development. Well-covered in the press, the
range of activities by the Secretary underlined how these
activities touch all Malians. The Secretary also left
with a clear understanding the Malians are serious when it
comes to improving their health care, whether it be through
clinics in isolated areas, anti-mosquito campaigns,
or conducting world-class research. The Secretary also saw
his perceptions reinforced that health-diplomacy efforts
undertaken by U.S. military units are a powerful tool for
pursuing national-security, political and humanitarian
goals. The presence of Cubans in the Malian desert also
underscores the importance some nations, which do not share
our values, place on medical missions as a means to gain
goodwill and curry political favor, with the potential to
undermine our own effort. The Secretary intends to
advocate for more deployments like the one he saw in
Timbuktu. End comment.

14. (U) Secretary Leavitt's party cleared this cable.


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