Health for all emphasized as WHO South-East Asia Regionâ€™s health ministers meet opens
“The challenges we all face are real and complex. We are committed to the achievement of universal health coverage. Every single country is making headway and we have powerful means to measure progress,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia Region, said at the inauguration of the Seventieth Regional Committee session of WHO South-East Asia, the governing body meeting of WHO in the Region.
Universal health coverage (UHC) is the best and most powerful means we have at our disposal for changing peoples’ lives through better health, she said, emphasizing how sustained investment in health will ensure hard-won economic progress continues.
WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom, said: “there is nothing better you can do for the people of your countries than to invest in strengthening your health systems. This includes ensuring the right number of health workers with the right skills, in the right places, to give the right care, at the right time. It means ensuring that essential medicines are available, and that people do not have to choose between buying medicine and buying food.”
A strong health system is vital not only help to keep people healthy, but is also the best defense against outbreaks and epidemics, the WHO Director General said.
Both Tedros and Khetrapal Singh commended Member countries of WHO South-East Asia Region for a series of recent public health achievements, including Region-wide elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus, elimination of malaria and lymphatic filariasis by Maldives and Sri Lanka; elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis by Thailand; yaws elimination by India, and most recently measles elimination by Bhutan and Maldives and lymphatic filariasis elimination by Thailand.
Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim, Health Minister of Maldives, and Mohamed Shainee, the special envoy of the President of Maldives and the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, addressed the inaugural session of the annual meeting being hosted by Maldives this year.
The focus of the meeting will be on building health systems’ resilience to climate change. A well prepared and responsive health system is crucial for preventing and minimizing the increasing health risks posed by climate change.
Improving access to essential medicines for all, intensifying efforts to end tuberculosis, vector control, eliminating hepatitis and road safety are among key issues to be discussed.
The Seventieth session of the Regional Committee is being held from 6-10 September, and includes health ministers and senior health ministry officials of the Region’s 11 Member countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.