September 9, 2008

India Urges South Asian Cooperation Against Poverty, Disease

Text of report headlined "India for regional cooperation in fighting poverty, diseases" by Indian newspaper The Hindu website on 9 September, subheading as carried

[by Aarti Dhar]

New Delhi: India on Monday [8 September] sought regional cooperation in overcoming the challenges posed by poverty and diseases, which are likely to aggravate owing to climate change.

The appeal was made External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee while inaugurating the 26th meeting of the Ministers of Health and the 61st session of the World Health Organisation Regional Committee for South East Asia here.

Mr. Mukherjee said that while there was remarkable improvement in the infant and maternal mortality rates in the country, the goals were still far from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). "The challenges are stupendous and we have to overcome them."

While suggesting inter-sectoral convergence to achieve the desired MDG outcomes, he called for cooperation between the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the South East Asia Region countries under the World Health Organisation in the health sector.

Anbumani's call

The proposed SAARC Development Fund, mooted at the 14th SAARC meet in Colombo, could be used for setting up blood banks, supplying vaccines and creating storage facilities and capacity building.

These facilities would be implemented shortly and India had started the telemedicine system facility to Bhutan and Sri Lanka from a super speciality hospital and the same would be extended to the other member countries too.

Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said public health was paramount to any country. The region was populous and prone to the vagaries of nature.

He cited the recent cyclone havoc in Myanmar [Burma] and floods in Nepal and Bihar. Expressing empathy with the flood-affected people, he said the need of the hour was to ensure dignity and quality healthcare to them.

India, he said, continued to shape the global public health agenda. Promoting yoga and discouraging smoking and drinking were high on the agenda of the government. Besides enhancing the Gross Domestic Product on health and other related determinants, the focus was on the National Rural Health Mission for improving primary healthcare, reproductive and child healthcare and controlling communicable diseases.

Dr. Ramadoss said India was ready to offer any help in dealing with climate change issues in the region.

WHO Director General Margaret Chan and the world body's Regional Director for South East Asia, Samlee Plianbangchang, appreciated India's efforts in dealing with the flood situation in Bihar.

During the session, the Public Health Foundation of India and the Health and Family Welfare Ministry will organise the first National Advocacy Workshop on Tobacco Control Laws and Related Issues on September 9 and 10.

Douglas Bettcher, Director of the Tobacco Free Initiative - a campaign under the WHO, will be present for the meetings. He is a votary of a total ban on tobacco advertising to prevent young people from smoking and chewing tobacco.

The Initiative was established in July 1998 to focus international attention, resources and action on the global tobacco epidemic. Its objective is to reduce the global burden of diseases and death caused by tobacco, thereby protecting present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.

Originally published by The Hindu website, Chennai, in English 09 Sep 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring South Asia. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.