I WOULD like to take this time to wish the citizens of Zambia health and happiness in 2017.Â I believe this year holds much prospect for all Zambians, especially when I reflect on all that Zambia and the United States have accomplished together.
With the US governmentâ€™s over US$3 billion contribution to date through the Presidentâ€™s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) programme, Zambia has achieved great strides in preventing and treating HIV.
As a result, rates of new HIV infection are less than half of what they were a decade ago and almost 700,000 are receiving life-saving antiretroviral treatment.Â Our US$355 million, five-year US-funded Millennium Challenge Compact is helping Zambia provide cleaner water and better sanitation infrastructure for 1.2 million Lusaka residents.
US military assistance provided training and equipment for the Zambian Army to participate â€“ and earn high marks â€“ in regional UN peacekeeping operations.
With US$225 million of funding from the US Presidentâ€™s Malaria Initiative, Zambia has been able to reduce by 50 percent the mortality rate of malaria, and our US government contributions to the Saving Mothers Giving Life programme have helped to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates by more than 30 percent.
The United States is also helping empower Zambiaâ€™s young leaders through the Mandela Washington Fellowship, giving them a chance to broaden their experience and horizons to benefit their local communities.
We have supported Zambiaâ€™s efforts to protect its national treasure â€“ its wildlife â€“ and give communities surrounding national parks an economic stake in conservation.
Zambia is not without challenges.Â In 2017, the government needs to spend prudently and adopt the right policies to help the economy recover and it needs to fully fund health and education programmes for the future betterment of all Zambians.
In particular, it needs to promote policies to facilitate private investment and entrepreneurship in sectors like energy, agriculture, and tourism, creating prosperity for Zambians across the country.
There is also still work to be done in reconciling a country divided after the August 2016 election and in promoting a free and open environment where all sides have a voice in public conversations and a stake in the outcomes.
With so much positive and good on which to build, including 52 years of strong bilateral US-Zambian relations, I am confident that Zambians will meet and conquer the challenges before them this year.
On behalf of the US Embassy to Zambia, our best wishes to all Zambians for 2017.
The author is United States Ambassador to Zambia.