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By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (March 1, 2002 – Marshall Islands Journal)---Thousands of Ebeye residents turned out for the dedication of the island’s new showcase health center last Saturday.

The $10 million, 33-bed health center -- officially named the Leroij Kitlan Kabua Memorial Health Center in memory of the recently deceased leroij – is a testament to cooperation among various governments, donors, local Kwajalein leaders, the U.S. Army and contractors.

President Kessai Note, making his first visit to Kwajalein as President, Iroijlaplap Anjua Loeak, Mayor Wilmer Bolkeim, U.S. Ambassador Mike Senko, Army commander Col. Curtis Wrenn, Jr., and project manager Bobby Muller spoke as part of a ceremony that also included music, a presentation of gifts for the hospital from USAKA, and ribbon cutting.

Fr. Leonard Hacker, a 51-year veteran of the Marshall Islands who had much to do with construction of schools and churches on Ebeye and other islands, was also in attendance and said the closing prayer for the event.

The health center is a major component of an infrastructure development package, financed heavily the Asian Development Bank, that has included power, water, sewer and road improvements.

The long delays -- that at one point led to the shell of the building sitting idle for about three years -- and nearly 10 years to complete the project show that "out of chaos comes opportunity," Loeak told the crowd. After detailing a short history of the project, Loeak called on Kwajalein residents "to remember how impressive this facility looks today, so that together we can help to maintain and care for it."

"The living conditions here on Ebeye have markedly improved with the provision of reliable power and safe water, and the rehabilitation of sanitation facilities and the road drainage system," Note said during his remarks.

The ADB, Kwajalein Atoll Development Authority, U.S. Department of Interior, Kwajalein Atoll Local Government, U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll, Kwajalein Atoll Joint Utility Resources (KAJUR)/American Samoa Power Authority, and the Kwajalein Health Bureau/Ministry of Health and Environment all provided assistance instrumental to completing the long-delayed health center project, Note said.

Funding for the overall Ebeye infrastructure improvement project was provided by:

Note praised the U.S. government for allowing the Interior Department to continue supporting the project despite "calls for withdrawal some time ago."

He added that with the cooperation of KADA, "we have been able to resolve our differences and move forward in a direction that will only lead to the betterment of the community here on Ebeye."

Note announced, also, that Interior has approved new matching funding of $1.8 million that the RMI government will be matching with its own $1.8 million for further improvements in sanitation facilities and to double the fresh water-making capacity on Ebeye.

Note said at the end of his speech that he wanted "to reaffirm the government’s commitment to work with the "Kwajalein leadership and community, and the local health providers to make the Ebeye Health Center the beacon of a healthy and vibrant community life."

Ebeye residents, led by Iroij Mike Kabua, hosted a big dinner reception at Mon LaMike for the visiting Majuro dignitaries, as well as many visitors from Kwajalein, after the opening ceremony. Music and dancing by two youth groups highlighted the program.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: journal@ntamar.com  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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