New Delhi: Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare addressed a meeting with Ministers of Health of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) countries through video-conference today.
Expressing his delight on meeting Health Ministers of SCO member states, Dr. Harsh Vardhan reminded everyone that it has been more than18 months since COVID-19 was declared a Public Health Emergency of international concern and it has shaken the entire world including the most developed nations.
The Union Health Minister noted that “The pandemic has shown that nobody is safe until all of us are safe. This has also highlighted the need for greater collaboration between countries on various aspects of health. Therefore, it is desirable that we should continue to exchange our experiences, learnings, best practices as well as innovations to strengthen our public health systems.”
He added that global crisis is further compounded by these ever-evolving new variants of the Corona-virus and that risk management and mitigation are required along with continued strengthening of global partnerships besides prioritization of investment in public health. “We need to conquer the adversary with collaborations and by supplementing each other’s capacities, by pooling our resources and through enhanced technical support,” he stated.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan observed that this Pandemic has dealt a profound blow to the SCO member states on the health and economic fronts, leading to an extraordinarily high cost of the economy & at the cost of precious human lives. He said, “One of the areas of strategic importance in COVID19 disease mitigation is the safeguarding of the health interests of the global community which is possible only with well- qualified, trained and motivated healthcare professionals supported by a robust policy framework. India believes that besides bilateral discussions on the issue, a multilateral approach which would create an institutional framework for mobility of health workers is the need of the hour. For example, India is currently collaborating with Japan and discussing with the United Kingdom & other countries from the EU regarding a nursing service exchange programme.”
The need for collectively addressing methods to mitigate the global health risk and emerging threats using the ‘One Health’ approach was stressed upon. Dr. Harsh Vardhan stated, “India has started the “Institute for One Health of International Standard” which may be leveraged to have a One Health International Hub in India which will address existing or potential risks which originate through the interface of animal-human systems.”
Assuring them that India is working extensively to increase core capacities to manage the present situation and ensure long-term interventions for mitigating any such future crisis, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said, “India – like many other countries – believes that there is an urgent need for carrying out major reforms in the World Health Organisation so that we can ensure timely, focused and effective responses for potential future pandemics.”
He hoped that, inter alia, the work of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee; as well as the International Health Regulations Review Committees under the WHO Health Emergencies Program will be crucial in steering a direction to achieve the much-needed multilateral cooperation in the field of global health.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan also informed his audience how India has utilized digital technologies extensively for inventory management and timely distribution of COVID vaccines. India had also launched the ‘Vaccine Maitri’ to provide vaccines to partner countries.
He also emphasized how the Indian traditional system of medicine has contributed substantially in boosting the immunity of the general population during COVID-19: “It is important that such rich traditional knowledge of medicines and treatment needs to be integrated into the modern healthcare system through investments at different levels not only as a response to COVID-19 but also to enhance the public health system. Under the able leadership of our Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, India had proposed the setting up of an Expert Working Group on Traditional Medicine under the existing institutional framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. A Draft to this effect was also circulated last year. I take this opportunity to propose that we should hold a meeting soon to discuss and finalize the modalities of the Expert Working Group. This should be done on a war footing so that we may set up the expert group much ahead of the meeting next year.”
He concluded his speech by reminding his audience of the centuries old historic linkages between the SCO nations connected by geography and enriched by links of culture, cuisine and commerce: “I call upon all of you today to remind each other of this bedrock of our modern-day relationship. It is for the sake of this ages-old friendship that we all must stand together and work for each other’s betterment and for the betterment of the SCO region. Only shared responsibilities and shared idealism will help us achieve these shared goals.”