The Foreign Service Journal - May 2017
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MAY 2017



cent—of health programming. Moreover, nearly every element

of the mission was engaged in health—PEPFAR, USAID and the

Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, of course, but also

every one of our 250 Peace Corps volunteers, ultimately our Mil-

lennium Challenge Corporation compact and even our Defense

Attaché Office. I recall commenting at my first meeting with the

country team, “The main thing we do in this country is health.”

But we did face challenges. Our engagement with the Zam-

bian government was in crisis. A recent scandal had poisoned

relations between the government and the donor community.

Despite our enormous life-saving investment in health, we could

not even get an appointment with the minister of health.

We successfully overcame the challenges in Zambia, and our

experience doing so produced the following instructive take-

aways on the value of health programming.


A Game Changer

The sheer size of our health programs presented opportuni-

ties to change the way people think. Our team looked for ways to

break the cycle of mistrust with the Zambian government, and the

PEPFAR programpresented an immediate opening. Our PEPFAR

cycle called for signing a new bilateral Partnership Framework

laying out our plans for the next five years, including planned U.S.

funding. When I signed the deal on Nov. 4, 2010, with Zambian

Minister of Finance and National Planning SitumbekoMusokot-

wane andMinister of Health Kapembwa Simbao, the Zambians

took our action as a renewed American commitment and a public

statement of confidence in the bilateral relationship. All the papers

ran photos of the signing ceremony. Soon we not only had access

to the healthminister again, but Zambian President Rupiah Banda

also opened his door to us.


A Team-Building Tool

While nearly every agency and section of our embassy

worked on health programs, it did not necessarily mean that

they were always in sync. I tried to build a sense of a strong team

by hosting monthly health-cluster meetings of all agencies,

at which we tried to tackle challenges together. But the most

effective tool for team-building came when we were offered the

opportunity to pilot a new program focused on maternal mortal-

ity: Saving Mothers, Giving Life.

U.S. Global Health Initiative Director Lois Quam called me

to propose the pilot, but she also offered our team the chance to

help shape and guide the effort based on the realities we faced in

Zambia. In one of the best team-building experiences I have had

as a diplomat, we built cross-agency teams that fostered on-the-

ground collaboration between key agencies. The leadership of

USAIDMission Director Susan Brems and CDC Director Larry

From left, Ambassador Mark C. Storella, Zambian Minister of Finance and National Planning Situmbeko Musokotwane, and Minister of

Health Kapembwa Simbao shake hands on signing the PEPFAR framework in November 2010.