Remarks by Deputy Chief of Mission Julie Chung at the Turnover Ceremony for Laboratory Equipment from U.S. Pacific Command to the National Blood Trans

(As Prepared for Delivery)
July 31, 2015

To His Excellency Mam Bunheng, Dr. Hok Kimcheng, and the other distinguished members of the Ministry of Health and the National Blood Transfusion Center who are present, good afternoon and thank you very much for inviting me to this ceremony.  I am delighted to be here today to underscore the close cooperation between the United States and Cambodia, and to honor the life-saving work carried out every day by the medical personnel of the National Blood Transfusion Center.

While this ceremony recognizes the turnover of laboratory equipment from the United States Government to the Ministry of Health, I want to focus today not on machines and hardware, but rather on the important partnerships we have with the National Blood Transfusion Center – partnerships that have attracted the U.S.’s continuing investment in the Center’s mission and success.

In discussing the close partnership between the National Blood Transfusion Center and the United States, I would first like to thank His Excellency Mam Bunheng for his leadership at the Ministry of Health that has allowed the vibrant, cooperative relationship that exists between us to develop.  Here at the National Blood Transfusion Center, I want to publically recognize Dr. Hok Kimcheng.  He has tirelessly coordinated a wide variety of activities and projects with us, to include the lab equipment we are turning over today, and his strategic, visionary leadership has won the admiration and respect of many.  Since joining the National Blood Transfusion Center in 1994, Dr. Hok Kimcheng has dedicated his professional life to saving lives through his work developing Cambodia’s blood services.  On behalf of the U.S., let me thank you—for all you do in support of Cambodian health.

Though the National Blood Transfusion Center’s efforts in ensuring the collection, maintenance, and distribution of a clean, safe blood supply for the Cambodian people serve as a cornerstone for public health, by their nature, these contributions are often not highly visible.

Survivors of serious motorbike accidents, for example, might have never set foot in the National Blood Transfusion Center, but if their injuries involved significant blood loss, these accident victims likely owe their lives to transfusions made possible by the blood supply that is overseen here.  The same can be said of a mother who suffers from life-threatening blood loss during childbirth.

Another critical contribution of the National Blood Transfusion Center that I want to highlight is its work in curbing blood-borne diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS.  A blood supply not subjected to rigorous analysis and testing can actually become a means of spreading serious disease, endangering life instead of preserving it.  Again, we can thank the work of the scientists and experts here for protecting the integrity of the Cambodian blood supply.

The National Blood Transfusion Center’s key role in Cambodian health care has been a joint effort of several U.S. Government entities.  The laboratory equipment that we are turning over today was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Pacific Command, or PACOM.  Just this week, PACOM also completed a national-level blood safety workshop in Kampong Cham that drew together U.S. medical experts and over 100 Ministry of Health employees to discuss how to manage blood supplies to maximize both safety and benefit for the Cambodian people.  Perhaps most significantly, PACOM is funding and overseeing the construction of the new facility for the National Blood Transfusion Center in Phnom Penh.  We are very excited about this project, which is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2016.  Additionally, regional blood centers are under construction in Kampong Cham and Siem Reap.

The U.S. President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, and the Centers for Disease Control also have a long relationship with the National Blood Transfusion Center.  They, in coordination with our friends at the Australian Red Cross and other donors, have been assisting in strategic planning and development for the Cambodian blood supply and working towards the international accreditation of the National Blood Transfusion Center.

In closing, let me state what an honor it is to join the staff of the National Blood Transfusion Center, and those in the Ministry of Health who support them, the critical work you do in protecting the lives and health of the Cambodian people and I wish you continued success. Thank you.