“I am very happy to announce that India will contribute $200,000 towards implementation of the preparedness stream under the South-East Asia Health Emergency Response Fund (SEARHEF) and we will release this support at the earliest.” This was stated by Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare during the Ministerial Round table on Emergency Preparedness on day two of the 72nd Session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia. The Health Ministers of the South-East Asia Region of WHO also signed the Delhi Declaration on Emergency Preparedness.
Dr Vardhan, accompanied by Dr Bernard Schwartlander, Chef de Cabinet, WHO and Dechen Wangmo, Minister of Health, Royal Govt of Bhutan, cycled to the meeting venue to focus on strengthening promotive and preventive health so that people adopt positive and healthy lifestyles. Later, Dr Vardhan also led the yoga session at the venue where the Health Ministers from eight of the 11 SEARO countries and delegates practices yoga. The Health Ministers and delegates also went for cycling after the yoga session. He said that Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, gave a call at the United Nations General Assembly to recognise Yoga as a provider of holistic approach to health and well-being. We are happy that the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to observe June 21, as International day of Yoga, he stated. This, along with Eat Right India campaign, will help us to fight lifestyle diseases like hypertension, obesity and diabetes effectively, he added. He further stated that our visionary Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has recently launched the Fit India Movement and has urged all country people to make fitness part of their daily routine.
Highlighting Cyclone Fani as a case study in early preparedness and disaster management, Dr Vardhan stated that accurate weather prediction, effective early warnings, sturdy preparedness for timely evacuation of nearly 1.15 million people to 6575 cyclone shelters, combined with other risk mitigation measures helped to save many human lives. “Special surveillance was mounted for early detection and control/containment of vector-borne and waterborne diseases. There had been no outbreak of epidemic prone disease following cyclone Fani,” said Dr Vardhan.
Dr Vardhan further said that the whole exercise of accurate prediction of cyclone Fani and saving thousands of human lives was appreciated and acknowledged by the United Nations and many other international agencies. Enumerating the emerging challenges, the Union Health Minister said climate change is leading to extreme weather events and sudden onset of natural disasters. The earlier concept of disaster risk mapping is rapidly getting blurred with large sections of hitherto unexposed population getting vulnerable to natural and man-made hazards. This calls for requisite systems strengthening. For a country of this large magnitude, addressing multiplicity of hazards is a critical challenge. Dr Vardhan also informed that in the recent past, Government of India has provided timely medical supplies to 13 countries requiring humanitarian assistance spread over South-East Asia, Asia Pacific and Africa worth $10 million. We continue to extend medical assistance to six countries this year with medical supplies worth $5 million, he added.
Speaking about managing rumours during public health emergencies which are amplified through various social media platforms, Dr Vardhan cited the example of Nipah and underlined the importance of transparency and timely information from government and other authorised sources to allay fears, apprehensions, rumour mongering and anxiety among people. “It is important to share authentic information with the people, as we are the custodians of their faith and as public service providers, need to keep them informed about our support”.
Eight Ministers of Health from eight of the 11 countries of the WHO South-East Asia Region (SEAR), Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region and senior officers of the Health Ministry were also present at the Ministerial Round table. This is the second time that India is hosting the Regional Committee meeting; the previous one was also hosted by India in New Delhi. – Express Healthcare