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Six WHO South-East Asia countries felicitated for public health achievements

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The Ministers of Health of six member countries of the WHO South-East Asia Region were felicitated on 3 September for public health achievements in recent months such as measles elimination, hepatitis B control, and elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.

Sri Lanka was recognised for eliminating measles; Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand for becoming the first four countries from the region to control hepatitis B; and Maldives for eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.

Presenting citations to the Ministers for their public health achievements at a side event in New Delhi during the 77nd Session of the WHO Regional Committee of South-East Asia, the Regional Director Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh said, “Disease eliminations have always been high on our agenda. When I talk about ‘sustain, accelerate and innovate’, ‘accelerate’ is to step up efforts to eliminate diseases like neglected tropical diseases.”

The Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Sri Lanka Dr. Rajitha Senaratne was presented the citation for measles elimination. Sri Lanka is the fifth country in the region to eliminate measles, a flagship priority program of WHO in South-East Asia since 2014.

The citations for hepatitis B control were presented to Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Upendra Yadav, Bhutan’s Minister of Health Dechen Wangmo, Thailand’s Deputy Minister of Public Health Sathit Pitutecha, and Bangladesh Health Services Division Additional Secretary MD Saidur Rahman. Controlling hepatitis B by reducing disease prevalence to less than 1% among five-year-olds significantly reduces chronic infections and cases of liver cancer and cirrhosis in adulthood.

The Maldives Minister of Health Abdulla Ameen was presented a citation for eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. Maldives is only the second country in the region to have achieved this feat after Thailand.

This is the fourth consecutive year that the public health achievements awards were presented to member countries on the sidelines of the Regional Committee Session. With focused and concerted efforts, member countries are making substantial progress around priority health issues. 

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