World Health Day 2018 - Colombo: The perfect place to mark the day.

World Health Day 2018 was made extra special by the decision of the Director General to travel to Sri Lanka to spend the big day here. Dr Tedros picked Sri Lanka because of its long standing to commitment to Universal health Coverage, the theme of this years event.

The run up to World Health Day started with Dr Tedros visiting Ragama rehabilitation Centre on the outskirts of Colombo. Dr Tedros spent time chatting with staff and patients at the centre, learning about the work of Ragama and its role in the Sri Lankan healthcare system.

Dr Tedros chatting with patients at Ragama Rehabilitation Centre


That evening Dr Tedros was joined by the Regional Director, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh in meeting with the staff of the WHO Country Office before having a series of high level discussions culminating in a meeting with the President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena.

World Health Day commenced with a celebration held at the country’s Nelum Pokuna Theatre. The event had an extra significance for both Sri Lanka and the WHO: Sri Lanka is celebrating 70 years of Independence and 2018 also marks 70 years since the founding of the WHO.

Addressing the audience, which included the President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Dr Tedros spoke warmly of the achievements of the country, highlighting Sri Lanka’s elimination of lymphatic filariasis, malaria, maternal and neonatal tetanus.

WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus


He also pointed out how both the WHO and Sri Lanka were committed to the goal of Universal Health coverage, the theme of this year’s World Health Day.

In her speech, WHO Regional Director Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh also commended Sri Lanka’s commitment to UHC,

“It is fitting that this event should be held here in Sri Lanka - a country that has long championed revolutionary power & potential of Universal Health Coverage.”

WHO Regional Director Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh


The theme of providing “health for all” ran through the event with a number of new initiatives being launched by the Ministry of Health, all designed to improve access to healthcare for everyone, everywhere in the country.

The World Heald Day celebrations were also used to launch the WHO’s Country Cooperation Strategy. This document codifies the strategic partnership between WHO and Sri Lanka and embodies many of the key themes of World Health Day.

Dr Olivia Nieveras presenting President Sirisena with a copy of the Country Cooperation Strategy.


Following the Nelum Pokuna event, Dr Tedros and Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh held a “Town Hall” meeting with High School students from all over Colombo. This gave the young people the opportunity to the raise health issues which affected them - and the chance to meet the DG and RD on a one to one basis, a fitting end to the World Health Day 2018 celebrations in Sri Lanka.

Full details of Dr Tedros’s speech can be found here (