Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday proposed that a common health programme be introduced for countries in the South Asian (SAARC) and ASEAN regions.
He made this proposal at the 69th sessions of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee of South East Asia where he called for the inter-linking of regional organizations and programmes in the two regions with ASEAN and SAARC congregating and cooperating with each other to create a common health programme.
“ASEAN and SAARC can join together to set up one common health programme because diseases in countries such as Cambodia may be common to Sri Lanka as well. We can get together and provide a better health service and a better life for our people in our regions,” the Prime Minister said. “Sri Lanka has had medical system for a long time beginning with the indigenous system of medicine which was developed over the years. Britain introduced the colonial health services. The Colombo Medical College was opened and became one of the oldest in the nation.”
“We had a war. The last ten years of it was challenging. We had to ensure that the hospitals were not targeted and see to it that health campaigns went on. I must say that immunization campaigns were conducted even in LTTE held areas. Now we have to face mental health issues,” he added.
The Prime Minister said the health issues faced by the world had changed from what it was earlier.
“Some 50 million people fought in the second world war with some 300 million being affected. Diseases spread, and thus health services became essential,” he said.“We live longer today. I read an article that said in 20 years time everyone will live up to 100 years. Every human organ can be copied and repaired today. These are all possibilities.”
The Prime Minister highlighted the fact that medical research went hand in hand with the discovery of new medicines to treat the illness people suffer from and asked whether we pay enough on research.
He said Sri Lanka was poised to cut down its debt to 53 per cent of the GDP by 2020 when it would become possible to spend more on health and education.
Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said Sri Lanka had made much progress in the health sector in the past few years and the WHO had contributed to that success.
WHO Director General Margaret Chan said health coverage was possible only to high income countries with many countries having access to good health systems today. “Sri Lanka has shown the world that any country can provide its people with sound health facilities,” she said. (Yohan Perera)