New Delhi: Union Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said Wednesday COVID-19 pandemic has taught the world the importance of protecting precious health gains. Harsh Vardhan stressed on investing in health and building a robust healthcare delivery system with special focus on rural areas.
Vardhan was representing India at the 73rd session of WHO South East Asia Region (SEARO). He highlighted the giant strides India has made under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to protect the lives and livelihood of its citizens from the pandemic.
“So far the public health achievements made in the region have been laying the foundation of a bright future for our people. However, COVID-19 has turned the clock back years if not decades in the fight against infectious diseases,” said Vardhan at the virtual session.
“Data suggests that COVID-19 has already derailed a lot of our efforts. It is taking us back to where we were 20 years ago. This is a stark reality and we need to take cognizance. On our part, we left no stones unturned to contain and mitigate the virus. I would say India has responded well to the challenges posed by the pandemic,” the minister added.
Vardhan was joined in the virtual session by Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State for Health. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Director, WHO SEARO was also part of the event.
It is for the first time that the two-day event is being held entirely through virtual platform owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 73rd session is being hosted by the Government of Thailand (from Bangkok). The previous session was held in New Delhi, the Health Ministry said in a statement.
Vardhan addressed the gathering first as the Chair of the 72nd session before handing over the charge to the new Chair Anutin Charnvirakul. The latter is the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health, Thailand, the statement said.
Vardhan offered his deepest condolences for the loss of lives across the region due to COVID-19 as the outgoing chairperson. He also extended heartfelt gratitude to the brave frontline workers of the region. Their ‘collective efforts at the cost of their own safety and well-being, have not only helped save lives but have also shown us resoluteness in caring for all in the face of adversity’.
The South-East Asia Region, with its 11 member states, represents a quarter of the world’s population. Strengthening the healthcare systems of member states of the region will help in improving the state of global health, achieving both the ‘Triple Billion’ target and ‘Sustainable Development Goals’.
“Our common goal of ‘Health for All’ unites us all, even from thousands of miles away. This very goal will drive our discourse on regional health today,” Vardhan noted.
The Health Minister informed the member states of the ‘significant achievements like the elimination of ‘Poliomyelitis’, ‘Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus’ and Yaws as well as considerable reductions in maternal and newborn mortality’. He also talked about India’s ambitious target of elimination of Tuberculosis by 2025.