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Cablegate: Ambassador's Visit to Sylhet Division with Senior Gob

VZCZCXRO9093
RR RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHNEH RUEHPW
DE RUEHKA #0827/01 2351012
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231012Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9350
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA USA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DHAKA 000827

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/INSB
USAID FOR A/AID, ANE, GH, RENEE HOWELL DESK OFFICER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID ECON EINV PREL TBIO BG
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S VISIT TO SYLHET DIVISION WITH SENIOR GOB
OFFICIALS HIGHLIGHTS U.S. ASSISTANCE AND ENHANCES COOPERATION

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) The Ambassador and USAID Mission Director visited
USG-supported development assistance project sites in Sylhet
Division August 2-5 to highlight U.S. support in health and
environment and enhanced U.S.-Government of Bangladesh (GOB) and
intra-GOB cooperation. They attended the inauguration of a health
clinic, a Family Welfare Center, Chevron's Bibiyana Gas Fields, and
the Lawachara National Park, meeting local political and business
leaders as well as American citizens residing in the northeastern
region. The Minister of Health and Welfare, Minister of Forestry,
Chief Whip of Parliament and local Members of Parliament joined in
the visit. The U.S. is making a difference in Sylhet, the lowest
performing district in most socio-economic indicators in all of
Bangladesh.

PROMOTING ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
------------------------------

2. (SBU) On August 2, the Ambassador spoke to 100 representatives
of the Sylhet businesses community, educators, and civil society
members at a reception hosted by the Sylhet Chamber of Commerce and
Industry. The Ambassador emphasized the need for developed and
less-developed countries to work together to deal with the worldwide
recession and lauded Bangladesh for its progress in trade and
business. He supported the notion of a Sylhet special economic zone
to draw more foreign investment and create a sustainable business
environment for economic development. The event received wide
coverage in both local and national media the following day.

SUPPORTING COOPERATION AMONG POLITICAL PARTIES
--------------------------------------------- -

3. (SBU) The Ambassador hosted a dinner for local political party
leaders, including representatives from civil society, the press,
Sylhet City Mayor Badruddin Ahmed Kamran as well as members of
parliament. He hailed the cooperative relationship between ruling
and opposition parties in Sylhet as an example for other parts of
the country of how leaders of rival parties can work together to
resolve local issues. The Ambassador remarked on the hard-working
character of Sylhetis, noting that remittances from Sylheti
expatriates in United Kingdom and United States have driven the
region's economic growth. The event spurred dialogue among a broad
cross section of Sylhet's political leaders and parties.

REACHING OUT TO AMERICAN CITIZENS
---------------------------------

4. (SBU) The Ambassador, on August 3, held a breakfast meeting for
American Citizens residing in the Sylhet region. The informal
setting provided an opportunity for American citizens to discuss a
wide range of consular and non-consular issues directly with the
Ambassador and U.S. Mission Dhaka officers.

SUPPORTING GOB FAMILY WELFARE PROGRAM
-------------------------------------

5. (SBU) The Ambassador and USAID Director, accompanied by senior
GOB health officials, visited the Doyamir Government Family Welfare
Center. Mohammad Abdul Qayyum, Director General for Family
Planning; Jabunnessa Hoque, Member of Parliament from Sylhet;
Shafiqur Rahman Chowdury, Member of Parliament from Belaganj and
Biswanath constituency; and senior health and family planning
officials from the Sylhet Division also attended. The Doyamir union
clinic, the local level GOB health care provider, serves a
population of 30,000. Clinic managers outlined clinic operations
during a tour of the facility. The tour was followed by a ceremony
where the Ambassador and the Minister of Health planted trees
outside the clinic.

AMERICAN CORNER, SYLHET INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY
--------------------------------------------- ---

6. (SBU) Mrs. Moriarty addressed approximately 70 students and
faculty at the American Corner at Sylhet International University.
The presentation, "The Role of Students in a Democracy," arranged
through a local NGO, stimulated many questions from students about
political action, nonviolence, and the role of women, comparing the
American and Bangladeshi experiences. Mrs. Moriarty met with the
Vice Chancellor, President, and Dean of Sylhet International
University, and reviewed books and videos available at the Sylhet
American corner, provided and supported by U.S. Mission Dhaka.

U.S. MISSION AND CHEVRON LAUNCH NEW
SMILING SUN CLINIC
----------------------------------

DHAKA 00000827 002 OF 002

7. (SBU) The Ambassador and USAID Director launched a Smiling Sun
Clinic in Habiganj. Minister of Health A.F.M. Ruhal Haque, led the
GOB delegation, joined by Chevron Bangladesh President Steve Wilson
and local Members of Parliament and commissioners. The clinic - the
320th Smiling Sun clinic in Bangladesh - provides basic health care
and maternal services including family planning, obstetrical care,
and medications to those living in the area. The launch ceremony
included speeches, a ribbon cutting and plaque unveiling, and tree
plantings. The Minister of Health, Ambassador and Mission Director
each administered oral medication to infants in the clinic. (Note:
The baby fed by the Ambassador cried lustily in protest fro the
cameras.) The clinic building and operations were funded by Chevron
and a joint public private alliance.

LAUNCHING U.S. SAFE MOTHERHOOD PROJECT MAMONI
---------------------------------------------

8. (SBU) The Ambassador took the opportunity to announce the U.S.
Government's new health initiative, "MaMoni", Bangla endearment for
mother. The USD 13.5 million program will address high death rates
among pregnant women and newborns; improve outreach to women in
remote areas; and increase awareness and education to promote safe
delivery and improve family planning. Mrs. Moriarty visited
Panicherra village to observe the ACCESS Safe Motherhood and
Neonatal Health Care project. She met with the local Community
Action Group (CAG), men who meet monthly to learn anatomy,
physiology, basic ante-natal care, nutrition, breastfeeding, and
advance planning for emergency transport. Mrs. Moriarty also
observed a home counseling session by an ACCESS field worker for
pregnant women; simple, low cost newborn care techniques including
how to wrap and dry an infant; and umbilical cord care. Despite
initial concerns that the community would not accept advice on
maternal health and family planning from young unmarried women,
field workers have gained community trust and confidence by
exhibiting skill in saving the lives of newborns.

CHEVRON'S BIBIYANA GAS FIELD
----------------------------

9. (SBU) The Ambassador and USAID visited the Chevron operated
Bibiyana Gas Field which now provides 1/3rd of Bangladesh's daily
gas consumption. Chevron Bangladesh has been active in oil and gas
exploration and production in Bangladesh currently extracts gas from
three fields. The Bibiyana Natural Gas Field was discovered in
1998. The Ambassador praised Chevron's safety efforts: the Bibiyana
campus recently reported employees had logged 8.8 million man-hours
without any days-away-from-work. USG staff also received a guided
tour of the facilities.

LAWACHARA INTEGRATED PROTECTED AREA
CO-MANAGEMENT PROJECT
-----------------------------------

10. (SBU) The Ambassador and USAID Director joined a consultative
meeting attended by more than 100 participants, including the Chief
Whip of the Bangladesh Parliament, the Chairman of the Parliamentary
Standing Committee on Environment and Forest, the Secretary of the
Ministry of Environment and Forest, members of local administration,
government and law enforcement agencies, and community
representatives. The Ambassador highlighted the gathering as an
example of effective grassroots democracy focused on resolving
crucial natural resource issues. Over the past year, USAID has
funded a number of Integrated Protected Area Co-Management Project
(IPAC) interventions designed to address the pressures and threats
to conservation in Lawachara National Park. The Ambassador observed
and inaugurated a number of IPAC projects, including the Community
Owned Nature Interpretation Center (CONIC). The Ambassador also met
with members of women's livelihood groups formed by IPAC to discuss
the context and challenges for Park conservation. The women's
groups represented both Bengali and indigenous communities.

COMMENT
-------
11. (SBU) The visit highlighted the depth of U.S. engagement in
Sylhet, showcasing models of community based development assistance
programs in health and the environment. Senior GOB officials who
accompanied the Ambassador and USAID Director learned how U.S.
assistance dollars are supporting Bangladesh in these two sectors.
The GOB officials' participation and engagement also fostered more
effective intra-GOB coordination. The Ambassador's interaction with
local political and business leaders and American Citizens residing
in northeastern Sylhet division, which garnered extensive media
coverage, increased the U.S. reach in Bangladesh.

MORIARTY

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