The member countries, including Nepal, of the World Health Organisation South- East Asia region have resolved to work towards making 'every school a health promoting school', while also endorsing safe school operations during the pandemic.

"Schools play an important role in promoting healthy lifestyles and lifelong healthy behaviours, and nurturing human capital for sustainable development of any society. We need a whole-of-government approach to ensure that children from all socio-economic background, including those with special needs, benefit from healthy schools," said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO South-East Asia Region at the regional committee meeting. The annual governing body meeting hosted by Nepal this year was held virtually for the second consecutive year due to the pandemic.

Adopting a resolution at the Regional Committee meeting to revitalise school health and health promoting schools, the member countries expressed concern about school closure during the pandemic and its impact on learning, growth and health of young children and adolescents. The member countries also deliberated the need to ensure safe reopening and operationalisation of schools during the ongoing pandemic, according to a press release.

At the five-day meet held from September 6 to 10, the member countries agreed to develop an integrated Regional Action Plan on viral hepatitis, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, in alignment with WHO's global and 2030 SDGs targets.

Other highlights of the regional committee meeting included a declaration signed by the member countries at a ministerial round table, discussions regarding lessons learned from the pandemic, and ways to strengthen health system resilience to ensure health security and achieve universal health coverage and Sustainable Development Goals for health.

Addressing the ministerial round table, Nobel Laureate Abhijit Banerjee emphasised the need to ensure quality of health care services.

The WHO and member countries of the South-East Asia Region discussed ways to further strengthen health emergency security systems in order to be better prepared for future health emergencies.

The meeting also discussed guidelines to enhance routine immunisation coverage and focused on making relentless efforts so as to boost the COVID-19 vaccination coverage.

Accelerating efforts to prevent and control the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, action being taken for measles and rubella elimination and progress on universal health coverage were some of the other regional flagship priorities deliberated at the meeting.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 14 2021, of The Himalayan Times.