South-East Asia health ministers meet in Colombo next week

Ahead of the Sixty-ninth WHO Regional Committee meeting, the health ministers of the 11 member countries of WHO South-East Asia Region, including India will be meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from 5th–9th September to set health priorities for the region

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Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Regional Office. (File Photo)

New Delhi: Health Ministers of the 11 Member countries of WHO South-East Asia Region are meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from 5 – 9 September to set health priorities for the Region, home to nearly a quarter of the world’s population.

Noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, which kill nearly 8.5 million people every year and are the leading cause of deaths in the Region, will be a key agenda at the Sixty-ninth WHO Regional Committee meeting, the highest policymaking body of WHO in the Region, being hosted by Sri Lanka.

Accelerating improvements in health in the era of Sustainable Development Goals, with the focus on the most vulnerable, will be another key agenda of the meeting.

The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe, will inaugurate the meeting. WHO Director General, Dr Margaret Chan; WHO South-East Asia Regional Director, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh; other WHO experts and senior officials from health ministries of member countries will be participating in the meeting.

With the Region having eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus and individual countries witnessing major wins such as elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis by Thailand despite an ongoing HIV epidemic; elimination of lymphatic filariasis by Maldives and Sri Lanka; yaws by India; and malaria by Maldives; there will be a greater push for time-bound elimination of diseases.

The key agenda of the regional meet will be noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases which are the leading cause of death in the region.

Tackling anti-microbial resistance (AMR) as a priority with a multi-sectoral approach involving food, agriculture and animal sectors, in addition to the health sector, will be deliberated at the meeting.

Ending preventable maternal and child mortality, addressing the double burden of malnutrition and health of migrant populations will also be discussed and focussed upon at the meeting.

WHO’s recent emergency reforms and further strengthening of core capacities by countries under the International Health Regulations for responding to health emergencies will be other key areas to be discussed and emphasised upon.

The Regional Committee meets annually and is hosted by one of the 11 Member countries of WHO South-East Asia Region.

WHO’s South-East Asia Region comprises the following 11 Member States: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.