South Asian nations pledge to fight vector-borne diseases

Health ministers of South Asian countries including India Tuesday pledged to control and eliminate vector-borne diseases like malaria, kala azar and lymphatic filariasis in the region.

Dhaka: Health ministers of South Asian countries including India Tuesday pledged to control and eliminate vector-borne diseases like malaria, kala azar and lymphatic filariasis in the region.

The Dhaka declaration on vector-borne diseases was adopted at the World Health Organization's South Asian regional meeting here.

Ministers from the region's 11 member states identified challenges and provided policy direction for future action on health issues, an official release said.

The declaration spells out steps to control and eliminate vector-borne diseases in the region.

Approximately 1.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, 871 million are exposed to lymphatic filariasis and over 147 million are at risk of kala azar in the region.

Around 52 percent of those vulnerable to dengue globally live in the countries of the region.

Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, who attended the meeting, stressed upon turning health issues into a social and community movement, saying that the "power of belief" has gone a long way in taking on health challenges.

"My mantra for success is to find a way to convert health issues into a social and community movement. It is the power of community participation and partnership that can empower us to achieve what we seek to achieve. It can bring an end to preventable deaths, including child and maternal deaths," Harsh Vardhan said.

He pledged India's unequivocal support to the Dhaka Declaration on vector-borne diseases.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said: "Health is one of the most important determinants of people's overall wellbeing."

"In order to build a healthy nation, our policies have put emphasis to intervene holistic dimensions of social, economic and environmental determinants of health, including poverty reduction, education, gender equality, women's empowerment and family planning," she said.

Hasina made a personal plea to the delegates to support Bangladesh's effort to mobilise global support for the cause of autism.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said that despite the many challenges which Bangladesh had faced over decades, "the solid improvements in the country's health system and the services it provides, together with a stunning rise in overall health status and life expectancy" have been internationally documented.

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