Minister's Speech for Regional Conference #RC70

    Wednesday, September 6, 2017

    All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. Peace and blessings be upon the Prophet of mercy, Muhammad (SAW) and his companions.

    His Excellency President Abdulla Yameen’s Special Envoy to inaugurate the 70th session of WHO South East Asia Regional Conference, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Dr.Mohamed Shainee,

    Director General of WHO Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus ,

    Regional director Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh,

    Honorable Health ministers of WHO SEAR countries

    Honorable Ministers,

    WHO Representative to Maldives Dr. Arvind Mathur, distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman,

    Assalam Alaikum and a very good morning to you all.

    I feel privileged to stand here as the Health Minister of the first nation in the South East Asia region free of lymphatic filariasis, to have beaten measles, defeated polio and conquered malaria.

    It is my pleasure to warmly welcome you to our beautiful country, the sunny side of life, the Maldives.

    Maldives is pleased to host the 70th session of WHO SEAR conference at a time when the country is relishing landmark accomplishments in the health sector.

    Our people are benefiting from a government funded health insurance scheme.

    The government expenditure on health has increased to a dramatic 130% while the percentage of health spending paid out of pocket by households declined from 49% to 29%. We now spend a whopping US$ 810 per head per annum for health; an amount that is double the average of upper middle-income countries.

    The people of the Maldives are indeed most fortunate to be reaping the harvest of development in the healthcare made available to them under the able and efficient leadership of our visionary president HE Abdulla Yamin. I would like to take this opportunity to thank his Excellency the President for making healthcare a priority in the government agenda, for giving precedence for health in the economic agenda that he promotes and for proving by means of action that health is indeed wealth.

    WHO has always stood steadfast with the Ministry of Health and their contribution in the accomplishments of the health sector of the Maldives is surely immeasurable. I would like to thank WHO for their continuous support. The partnership between WHO and Maldives has strengthened under the leadership of regional director Dr Poonam Kathrapal Singh and country representative Dr. Arvind Mathur. I extend my sincere gratitude for your support. At the same time I acknowledge and appreciate the great work of former Director General Dr Chan.

    I hope it is not a mere coincidence, Dr Tedrose, that your first regional conference as the new DG of WHO happens to be here, in paradise. Welcome to Maldives, Welcome to paradise Dr. Tedrose. I have full confidence that under your leadership WHO will reach new heights.

    Excellency’s, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen

    Indeed, Maldives has achieved a lot in the provision of better health for its people. We continue to attain notable achievements in reducing maternal, infant and child mortality. Life expectancy has improved to a level almost equivalent to developed countries.

    It is with much respect that I congratulate and thank all the health professionals who have contributed to such a remarkable success. While enjoying the achievements, we are facing huge challenges from the growing rates of non-communicable diseases; cancer rate is alarming, diabetes is on the rise, depression is a public health threat. These and many more lifestyle related diseases now account for over 80% of total deaths in the country. Unless we consider preventive care to be as important as curative care, we are not going to achieve excellence in health. I call upon all the ministries and agencies to work together as a nation for excellence in health. Immediate and collective action is required to integrate health beyond health.

    Honorable health Ministers and head of delegates,

    Our discussion at the round table will culminate with the major outcome of this regional conference, Male’ declaration “building health systems resilience to climate change”.

    All populations are affected by climate change but some more than others. Maldives is amongst the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Maldives is also one of the most strident voices in climate change amongst small vulnerable nations; we may be small in size, few in numbers but we are loud in climate change and environment advocacy.

    Here on the island of paradise with its renowned beauty and a touch of vulnerability to climate change, we happen to have the most congenial and befitting surroundings to carry out deliberations on building health systems resilience to climate change.

    Nations across the globe are just beginning to understand the gravity of health impact of climate change. Extreme temperatures, natural disasters, variable rain patterns and similar weather patterns have a direct impact on people’s health. It is a driver of disease migration. It is a threat to economies. It impacts social and environmental determinants of health. This is an opportune time to bring a global health concern to the roundtable for deliberations, to address climate change moving SEAR towards a more healthy and resilient path.

    Excellency’s, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen

    I am happy to see that the conference has got off the ground but to get here, a lot of people have put in much thought, time, and energy. I would like to acknowledge WHO SEAR office, WHO Male’ office, and the team from Ministry of Health for their patience in difficult times. I am also grateful for their commitment to making this event a reality and a success.

    Many government and private organizations and agencies have contributed to this event in various capacities. I would like to particularly mention the assistance extended to us by MNDF, MTCC, Paradise Island, ADK, Immigration and Kurumba. I extent my sincere gratitude for their generous support.

    In concluding, I wish for a productive and successful discussions that will generate innovative ideas addressing challenges to health systems in the South East Asia Region and globally.

    Let me also assure you that you have an obliging and a hospitable team to ensure that your stay in the Paradise is fruitful and memorable.

    Have a good day.

    Wassalama Alaikum.