Former Timor-Leste President, former Bhutan Minister get WHO public health award

SEAR/PR/1611

New Delhi/Dili, 9 September 2015: WHO South-East Asia Region has conferred the Excellence in Public Health awards to Mr Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao from Timor-Leste and Mr Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup from Bhutan for their path-breaking interventions that helped improve the health and well-being of people in their countries.

Mr Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, the former President and currently the Minister of Planning and Strategic Investment, has been awarded for building sustainable health services, specifically in training medical doctors. Mr Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup, the former Minister of Health and Education, has been recognized for setting up the Bhutan Health Trust Fund, as the Director General of Health Services, to fund vaccines and essential drugs.

“The award is an appreciation and acknowledgement of their significant contributions to health care services,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director WHO South-East Asia, said while giving the awards at an event on the sidelines of the WHO Regional Committee meeting in Dili, Timor-Leste, last night. The award comprises of a citation and a plaque.

Mr Gusmao, as the President of the country in 2003, had signed a historic agreement with Cuba for building sustainable health system and training medical doctors in Timor-Leste. Two years later he signed another agreement with Cuba to train 1000 Timorese medical doctors. As a result, today all 442 villages in the country have at least one doctor in each of their health centers and health posts.

Mr Ngedup, who became the Director General Health Services in 1992 and the Minister for Health and Education in 1998, brought unprecedented development in the health sector, both quantitatively and qualitatively. His most important contribution was the Bhutan Health Trust Fund (BHTF), set up to ensure continued funding of two critical components of health services – vaccines and essential drugs. To raise support and funds for BHTF, Mr Ngedup travelled 560 kms on foot within the country and also visited several other countries to meet potential donors and funders. Today, health contributions of all employees in Bhutan are channeled through BHTF, making it large enough and sustainable to guarantee the availability of all vaccines and essential drugs.

The WHO awards were initiated last year to recognize public health professionals or institution/ programme, whose work had resulted in far-reaching implications and gains. The first recipients of this award were Ms Saima Hossain of Bangladesh for her efforts to put autism on the global agenda, and the Timor-Leste Malaria Control Programme.

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