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Khaleda keen on addressing public health issues

Written by: Staff

Dhaka, Apr 27: Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has urged SAARC Health Ministers to go fast implementing the decisions taken by the forum in the health-population area to preserve public health in the region, particularly of the poor.

She made the suggestion while formally inaugurating the third SAARC Health Ministers Conference at Hotel Sonargaon yesterday, informing the meet about some decisions on health issues taken during the 13th SAARC Summit held in Dhaka last year.

The Prime Minister formally launched the SAARC Regional Strategy on HIV/AIDS by unfolding the cover of the strategy document.

Begum Zia, the current chairperson of SAARC, suggested that implication should be carefully considered in formulating new decisions and framing new strategies under the regional forum.

''The 13th SAARC Summit in Dhaka emphatically resolved that SAARC's third decade would be one of implementation; this means our decisions should be focused, result-oriented and time- bound,'' she told the function, also attended by representatives, delegation members and SAARC officials.

Bangladesh Health Minister Khandokar Mosharraf Hossain, Pakistan Health Minister Nasir Khan, Indian State Minister for Health Panabaka Lakshmi and SAARC Secretary General Chenkyab Dorji also spoke at the inaugural session.

Begum Zia said, ''Over the years, South Asian leadership has taken a number of decisions to improve the health and population profile of the people of this region. The last SAARC summit also came up with important decisions in that direction.'' She believed that the Health Ministers of SAARC countries would consider ways and means of implementing the summit directives.

Highlighting some concerns and decisions, the SAARC chairperson said the member-countries should take adequate preparation for preventing and controlling such health emergencies like Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) and Dengue.

Expressing happiness over the finalisation and launch of the SAARC regional strategy on HIV/AIDS, she suggested considering forming a broad-based compact between government and civil- society stakeholders to combat this terrible scourge.

The Prime Minister also underlined the need to develop regional strategies for prevention and treatment of Dengue, TB, Malaria, and other infectious diseases like Kala Azar.

Some of these diseases were fully eliminated in certain parts of this region, but they are reappearing after a few years, she noted.

''Unless all the countries initiate actions at the same time, we shall not be able to eliminate incidence of these communicable diseases for a longer period,'' she said.

Mentioning another decision to launch a regional initiative to ensure basic healthcare services and sanitation in the rural areas, she called upon the Health Ministers to consider how best to cooperate on this front.

The draft provisions agenda, which was to be approved by the SAARC Health Ministers, include mobilisation and intensification of regional action and progressive control of HIV/AIDS and Avian Influenza, exchange of views to launch a regional initiative with regard to basic healthcare services and sanitation in the rural areas, exchange of views to develop a SAARC plan of action for cooperation in Medical expertise and pharmaceuticals, and harmonisation of standards and certification procedure.

Mentioning two key successes of Bangladesh, a country of 140 million people living in a limited land area, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia said through continued efforts of successive governments the population growth rate has been reduced from three in the 1970s to 1.48 in 2004. Similarly, total fertility rate came down from 6.3 in the 1970s to less than half at three in 2004. Despite this success, the government promulgated a new Population Policy in 2004 in the light of ICPD, PRSP and MDGs.

The Prime Minister said her country has made definite strides in the use of sanitary latrines in the rural areas and hoped to ensure a hundred-per cent success in this regard by 2010.

''We would be only too glad to share our experience with our SAARC neighbours,'' she said.

She added that cooperation in pharmaceutical production offers a significant area of cooperation for the benefit of the common people in South Asia.

''Our region constitutes a major origin of genetic plant material and other materials that are critical in manufacturing a range of drugs. We can all benefit from affordable and quality drugs produced in the region.'' Begum Zia said all the countries in this region are making their best endeavour to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, particularly those related to maternal and child health, universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation and affordable quality drugs for people.

Bangladesh has already achieved and close to achieving some goals, including 96 per cent coverage of access to safe drinking water, reduction of under-five child mortality, achieving stable GDP growth, raising per-capita income, maintaining food security, increasing resilience to meet natural disasters, improving human-development index and attaining better social and health outcomes, including female literacy and education.

''Our performance in these areas compare favourably in our region and beyond,'' the Prime Minister told her audience from across the region.

Mentioning 22 South Asian Development Goals (SDGs), four related to health sector, she observed that it would be important for the meeting to adopt strategies to implement those four regional versions of the UN-designated development priorities (MDGs).

The Independent South Asian Commission for Poverty Alleviation (ISACPA) has formulated the SDGs.


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