The health ministers of the member countries of World Health Organisation South- East Asia Region will deliberate next week to expedite the key issues regarding the ongoing pandemic and measures in a bid to reinvigorate essential health services and achieve universal health coverage.

The 74th Regional Committee Session of WHO South-East Asia, the annual governing body meeting of WHO in the region, will be hosted by Nepal from September 6 to 10. The meeting will be attended by WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Regional Director Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, health ministers and senior health officials of the member countries of the Region, UN agencies, partners, donors and civil society representatives.

Strengthening the public health emergency preparedness and response, accelerating progress for prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, and ending viral hepatitis, HIV and STI are among other key issues to be discussed at the annual meeting which is being held virtually for the second consecutive year in view of the pandemic, said a press release issued by New Delhi-based WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia.

Monitoring the progress on universal health coverage, revitalising school health and preparing the regional framework for vaccine preventable diseases will also be discussed in the meeting.

Similarly, the meeting will take stock of the progress being made in the region regarding the resolutions adopted at previous Regional Committee meetings. Measles and rubella elimination by 2023, improving access to essential medical products, and strengthening health systems to accelerate the delivery of services to cure non-communicable diseases at the primary health care level will also be discussed at the meeting.

While responding to the ongoing pandemic, countries in the region are also making efforts around the eight regional flagship priorities to eliminate measles and rubella by 2023, address non-communicable diseases through multi-sectoral policies and plans, accelerate reduction of maternal, neonatal and under-five mortality, advance universal health coverage, reverse antimicrobial resistance, scale-up emergency risk management capacities and eliminate neglected tropical diseases and TB.

Home to one-fourth of the global population, the region continues to sustain the impressive progress being made under the priority programmes.

WHO South-East Asia Region eradicated polio in 2014 and eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus in 2016.

Maldives and Sri Lanka have eliminated both measles and rubella, while Bhutan, DPR Korea and Timor-Leste have achieved measles elimination.

Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand have eliminated lymphatic filariasis.

Nepal and Myanmar have eliminated trachoma. India is yaws-free. Sri Lanka and Maldives have eliminated malaria.

Likewise, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Maldives have eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and Syphilis.

Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand have controlled Hepatitis B.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 5 2021, of The Himalayan Times.