WHO focuses on ways to improve health in southeast Asia

The 72nd regional meeting of WHO for the south-east Asian region was inaugurated on September 2, 2019 in Delhi

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Monday 02 September 2019

The 72nd regional meeting of World Health Organization (WHO) for the south-east Asian region was inaugurated on September 2, 2019 in Delhi. Representatives from 11 member countries came together to deliberate on the priority health issues in the region. These include cervical cancer, strengthening of emergency preparedness capacities, eliminating measles and addressing the high burden of tuberculosis.

WHO Regional Director Poonam Khetrapal Singh called this “a time to take stock, to review progress, to discuss and update policies and technical strategies”.

The region holds a special place in global health arena. The regions accommodates a fourth of the world population; success here has major impact on global health, said Bernhard Schwartländer, chef de Cabinet of WHO, representing Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the meeting. 

Singh pointed out that the region was turning the world capital for disease elimination:

  • It is free of polio and maternal and neonatal tetanus
  • Maldives and Sri Lanka are malaria-free
  • Thailand and Maldives have eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis
  • Bhutan, Maldives, SouthKorea, Timor-Leste and Sri Lanka have eliminated measles
  • Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste have controlled rubella
  • Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand have eliminated lymphatic filariasis
  • India is yaws-free
  • Nepal has eliminated trachoma
  • Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand have controlled Hepatitis B

Deliberations are targeted to ensure that regional priorities are aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and WHO’s global triple billion goal.  

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan underscored India's programmes such as Ayushman Bharat, Mission Indradhanush and the NMC Bill at the inauguration. He also talked about 'Rashtriya Poshan Maah' — to use September for healthy eating campaigns. 

Over the next three days, representatives from different countries are scheduled to discuss emergency preparedness in the region, universal healthcare, health-related SDGs, tropical diseases, immunisation, non-communicable diseases, polio eradication, antimicrobial resistance and health emergencies. The regional meeting will also deliberate and finalise a Delhi Declaration on traditional medicines.


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