WHO Regional Director visits the Republic of Maldives

Male’, 5 March 2014: Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, commended the Government of Maldives and the Ministry of Health and Gender for their commitment and vision for universal health coverage for all its citizens. Dr Khetrapal Singh is on a two-day visit to Maldives.

The newly elected WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, Dr Khetrapal Singh, accompanied by the WHO Representative to the Republic of Maldives, Dr Akjemal Magtymova and Hon Minister of Health and Gender Dr Mariyam Shakeela, met His Excellency Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, Vice President of Maldives on 4 March. Dr Singh congratulated the Government of Maldives on the country’s achievements made towards the Millennium Development Goals, and gains in public health more broadly over the past decade.

The WHO Regional Director recognized the current challenges in financing health systems, human resources for health and availability of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals in Maldives. She reaffirmed WHO’s continued support to strengthening the country's health systems to ensure sustainable financing and provision of quality care to respond to those challenges.

“Maldives has made impressive gains in providing health care to its citizens. This was made possible due to the primary health care approach adopted by the country. The community health workforce was in the forefront of public health and the foundation of integrated, people-centered services. Bringing the focus back on health promotion and disease prevention will help the country realize its universal health coverage vision. This approach will also help bring down the escalating costs, particularly those related to noncommunicable diseases, and build a stronger, sustainable health system,” said Dr Khetrapal Singh.

Addressing the National Meeting on Strengthening Dengue Prevention and Control in Male’ on 5 March, Dr Khetrapal Singh said that Maldives has done much to strengthen its disease surveillance, response and case-management capacity for dengue control. Despite challenges such as high turnover of doctors in the islands, and difficulty in retaining experience and expertise, Maldives has maintained a low case-fatality rate for dengue. The country is developing a national strategic plan for dengue as a guiding document for all stakeholders.

“This is a country whose collective efforts and strong determination have successfully eliminated malaria and has sustained this remarkable achievement. Maldives is the only country in WHO’s South-East Asia Region to achieve this goal. We would like Maldives to reflect on the malaria experience and use their expertise to prevent dengue which poses a major public health risk to its citizens,” said Dr Khetrapal Singh.

Dr Khetrapal Singh assumed office as the Regional Director for South-East Asia on 1 February 2014, elected by Member States of the WHO South-East Asia Region and subsequently appointed by the WHO Executive Board, which consists of 34 Member States from around the World. She is an Indian national and the first woman to hold this post. This is Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh’s first official visit to a Member State in the Region as Regional Director.

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WHO’s South-East Asia Region comprises the following 11 Member States: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

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