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First Lady

Remarks of First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at FOSREF

Port-au-Prince, Republic of Haiti
November 22, 1998

I am very pleased to be here with Mrs. Geri Préval. She and I have become friends over the years as we have worked together in meetings on many of these important issues.

I am particularly pleased to have my own opportunity to visit FOSREF. I have heard about your work for a number of years and I am pleased to see it for myself. I want to thank Tim Wirth, because he was the first person who brought it to my attention. At that time, I also learned about the Call for Action, which has made such an important contribution to creating a strategy to deal with Haiti's population issues, sexually-transmitted diseases, maternal mortality and other pressing reproductive health issues.

It is very exciting for me to hear these young people speak for themselves. I want to thank Annick, and David, and Regine and Ronald for speaking not only for themselves individually but for many, many other Haitian youths. Sometimes, adults don't listen; we should follow the advice: listen to learn, learn to listen. Because if we listen to our young people, they will tell us that they want opportunities to be responsible, they want structures in which they can grow, they want to know what the right things to do are, and they need adults and programs like FOSREF to help them. So I am particularly pleased to have a chance to hear from you, and I want to thank everyone who participated in the sketch. I thought it was very effective, and there were some good actors in that sketch. There is a future for some of you, I think.

Dr. Moise, your leadership, here in FOSREF, is extraordinary and we hope that your model will spread throughout Haiti, that it will reach more and more young people, and that the young ambassadors of responsible behavior will be able to travel far and wide to talk with more young men and women.

I am very honored to be able to accompany three very distinguished Americans here today. These distinguished Americans represent American foundations that are very interested in Haiti and particularly in the youth of Haiti. I want to thank Mr. William Gates and the Gates Foundation for their very generous contribution. I want to thank Ellen Marshall for the important work that the UN Foundation is doing here in Haiti. And I want to thank my friend Vicky and the Summit Foundation for her deep concern about youth everywhere and for her contribution that she announced today.

The United States government will continue to support the work that takes place here, because we know that this is one of the very best programs anywhere in the world. And I want to repeat that, because I want all Haitians to know that this is not just a good program for Haiti, this is a good program for the entire world. And I hope you are proud of what you have achieved here.

USAID has supported FOSREF since its very beginning, 10 years ago. And this year, USAID will provide $780,000 of additional support for its work in family planning and maternal and adolescent health. I am also pleased to announce today that we will be delivering 10 bicycles to you, so that the young people who are traveling around the city to meet with other young people will have a reliable mode of transportation.

[segment inaudible]

The challenges facing Haiti with respect to population and sexually-transmitted diseases and maternal and infant mortality are extremely, extremely difficult to address. As we heard earlier, 45 percent of your population is under the age of 15. You have many, many young people who die before they are even one year of age, you have many mothers dying in child birth, you have many mothers dying from abortion. It is in Haiti's long term interest to do everything we can to deal with these problems, to help give every boy and girl a chance to live up to his or her God-given potential.

The work that the Haitian Task Force for Population and Reproductive Health is doing in its Call for Action is a model for other countries. I commend the people who have been part of putting the Call for Action together. This report recognizes that no country --no country anywhere --can move forward if women do not have access to quality reproductive health services, if girls are not educated and if young people are not taught responsibility and how to take control of their own health and well being. So we are here today to celebrate FOSREF's ten years, to announce additional support from your friends in the United States, and to let you know that we will stand in solidarity with you, as you continue to address the problems that stand in the way of Haiti being all that it can be.

Yesterday, at an event at our Ambassador's residence--and I am pleased that the United States Ambassador and his wife are with us today--I thanked the people of Haiti for the many wonderful Haitian-Americans who make so many contributions to the United States. Haitian-Americans who are doctors and nurses in hospitals, who are teachers in our schools and universities, who serve with distinction in the military, who are leaders in business. There is no difference between Haitians here and Haitians in our country, except for the systems and the structures that you do not yet have in place to support human development and to provide education and economic opportunity. But if Haiti is able in the next several years to move forward with its democracy and to provide support for the economy and the education and the health care of its people, then I see a very bright future indeed. God bless you and God bless Haiti.

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