Bhutan at the WHO Regional Committee meeting

Leading the Bhutanese delegation, the health minister, Tandin Wangchuk is currently attending the five day World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee meeting on building health system resilience to climate change.

The 70th WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia which is taking place in Male, Maldives will conclude on Monday. The Regional Committee for South-East Asia is the WHO’s governing body in the South-East Region, with representation from all 11 member states of the region.

According to the press release from the WHO, the focus of the meeting will be on building health systems’ resilience to climate change. It said that a well prepared and responsive health system is crucial for preventing and minimizing the increasing health risk posed by climate change.

At the inauguration, the Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia Region, Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, said “the challenges we all face are real and complex. We are committed to the achievement of universal health coverage (UHC),” adding that every single country is making headway.

She also added that UHC is the best and most powerful means for changing peoples’ lives through better health.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom, the WHO Director General also said that a strong health system is vital not only help to keep people healthy but also the best defense against outbreaks and epidemics.

The member states from WHO South-East Region signed Male Declaration on building health system resilience to climate change in South Asia Region on Thursday. The declaration is accompanied by a Framework for Action to be implemented by 2017 and 2022.

The declaration reaffirms the commitment of the countries to tackle climate change and health and call for action on protecting human health from climate change. The declaration also recognizes the need to strengthen the capacity and efficiency of health systems to be responsive, reduce vulnerabilities and increase resilience to climate change and extreme weather events.

“Climate change is happening, and is a risk to public health. Whether from greater severity and intensity of extreme weather events, changes in the spread and abundance of disease-carrying vectors such as mosquitoes, or changes to the physical environment that cause displacement or threaten livelihoods, climate change is already having an impact across our region,” said Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh.

The core action points in the declaration include establishing and strengthening climate change and health information system and research, integrating climate risks with national disaster risk management, enhancing health sector preparedness for climate-related events by securing essential services such as water and sanitation, waste management and electricity and also initiating the greening of the health sector by adopting environment-friendly technologies and using energy-efficient services.

“By fully implementing these and other initiatives, health systems can protect vulnerable populations across the region against health risks caused by climate change,” states the press release.

Along the sidelines, Bhutan received the Citation as an appreciation from the WHO South-East Asia Region (SEARO) in recognition for achieving Measles elimination status ahead of the WHO South-East Asia Regional target of 2020.

Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said that the recognition is dedicated to the healthcare workers who have walked the extra mile and given their energy to read this height.

Lucky Wangmo from Thimphu