Sri Lanka, with only 13 Covid-19 deaths, gets a pat from WHO

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on September 18, 2020 Published on September 18, 2020

Health, FinMins of APAC region say will create finance-resilient health system with Universal Health Coverage

The Ministers of Health and Finance from Asia Pacific countries, including from the World Health Organisation South-East Asia region, have vowed to create a finance-resilient health system with Universal Health Coverage (UHC) at the centre of it, as per the WHO’s official release.

Health and Finance Ministers from the Asia Pacific Region met at a virtual meeting organised by WHO, the Government of Japan, and the Asian Development Bank. The meeting was organised to discuss ways and means to accelerate universal health coverage (UHC) or health for all and mobilise financing for healthcare amidst and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking at the convention, WHO South-East Asia Regional Director, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, said: “For every dollar invested in universal health coverage, the return is delivered many times over.”

She added: “Firstly, due to increases in overall population health and well-being and the productivity, jobs and poverty-reduction they promote. Secondly, because when the quality and reach of health services improves, health systems become more resilient and can better mitigate or manage acute threats while maintaining essential health services.”

The South Asian region has adopted two key ministerial declarations on building resilient health systems, the 2019 Delhi Declaration on Preparedness and last week the Region’s Declaration on Collective Response to Covid-19.

Both these declarations commit to investing in preparedness and regional solidarity to make health systems stronger amongst the 11 member countries, as per the WHO release.

“Across the WHO South-East Asia Region, across Asia and across the world, countries that have made sustained, long-term investments in UHC have health systems that are more resilient, and which have more effectively minimised the spread of Covid-19, maintained essential health services, and mitigated economic shock,” the Regional Director said.

The expert panel lauded Bhutan, the Republic of Korea, and Malaysia for providing free testing for Covid-19, and care, which resulted in timely diagnosis and treatment.

They also commended Sri Lanka, which has one of the highest numbers of health workers in Asia, for reporting containing the mortality rate. The country has reported only 13 deaths due to Covid-19 to date.

Khetrapal further made a strong plea for prioritising health in government budgets for the short and medium term, and for improving investment in primary health care. She also suggested governments to mobilise domestic revenues for health via pro-health taxes, e.g. on tobacco, alcohol, sugar-sweetened beverages.

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Published on September 18, 2020
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