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I am indeed delighted to be here today to officially open this very important institution, The Aberdeen Community Clinic and Fistula Centre, and the Hostel of Hope.

I am particularly pleased to have learned that the centre will not only offer primary health care services to the Aberdeen Community generally, but also provide treatment for women affected by Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF), a condition usually caused by prolonged labour during childbirth, which results in chronic incontinence and a loss of control over the discharge of urine.

This is particularly important because VVF affects not only the health but also the emotional well-being of many young girls and women in Sierra Leone. Because of their incontinence and inability to control urine discharge, those who suffer from VVF are often shunned by their husbands and families and stigmatized by their communities. This isolation can lead to frustration and depression, and, in the past, when prompt and appropriate interventions were not undertaken, some affected women chose to end their lives rather than suffer with the condition.

In response to surveys carried out in Sierra Leone, which highlighted the magnitude of the problem in the country, appeals were launched to our traditional partners in the Health Sector and the Mercy Ships for assistance that would help us address and prevent the condition.

The Aberdeen Clinic and Fistula Centre (ACFC) and the Hostel of Hope are direct results of this appeal. These facilities collectively represent a dream, vision and hope that have now become a reality for women with VVF, an achievement attained through the dedication and efforts of patriotic Sierra Leoneans and our partners who have worked, and continue to do so, jointly with my Government and the Aberdeen Community.

That dream, vision and hope began to come to fruition in December 2004, when ADDAX & ORYX Foundation in collaboration with the National Petroleum Company and the Community of Aberdeen completed the construction of the hospital.

Then in March 2005 meetings and discussions were held with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Mercy Ships, National Petroleum Company, ADDAX & ORYX Foundation and the Aberdeen Community, in order to determine how best to operate the center. An agreement was reached that called for Mercy Ships to be responsible for the day-to-day operation and management of the centre and the Clinic, which would serve the Aberdeen Community, its environs and beyond.

Finally in April 2005, the centre was ready to see patients, and the first VVF surgical operation was performed. Since that period, the Centre has successfully treated patients from all over the country and provided essential primary health care to the Aberdeen Community, in particular.

To provide effective post-operative nursing and counseling services to the VVF patients, a hostel was built with the support of the Rotary International of Britain and Ireland.

My government wholeheartedly supports and highly values ventures such as this, which reduce the suffering of women in our society and ultimately help not only the women but also their families, communities and the entire nation. It is my fervent hope however that effective measures will be undertaken to prevent or reduce the occurrence of Fistula during childbirth.

This can be achieved by strengthening the partnership that I have always advocated between government, the private sector, foreign partners and non-governmental organizations as reflected in the execution of this project. In this regard, the reproductive health division of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation together with UNFPA, EU and other partners are working closely in ensuring that Emergency Obstetric care is available and provided in the hospitals throughout the country. I am sure that success in this area will translate into a significant improvement of our country's rating in the UN Human Development report, a rating which in the past was greatly depressed by problems associated with childbirth such as VVF.

I am certain that the Aberdeen Community and all the women in Sierra Leone are grateful for the services you are rendering here at this center. My government will provide all the necessary support to enhance your operations in Sierra Leone.

I extend sincere thanks to ADDAX & ORYX Foundation for providing the funding for the initial construction phase of the clinic; the Sierra Leone Petroleum Company, particularly the role played by Mr. Vincent Kanu who first introduced me to this project, the Aberdeen Community for providing the land for the facility; and Mercy Ships for converting the Clinic into a Fistula Centre and a Primary Health Care Institution to serve the Aberdeen and other communities.

Finally, I would like to thank Rotary International for providing critical support for the construction of the hostel, serves as a facility for post-operative nursing and counseling services.

I now have the great pleasure of declaring the Aberdeen Fistula Centre and Community Clinic open.

I thank you all.