The World Health Organization (WHO) has decided to celebrate 70th World Health Day in Sri Lanka this year as the island nation also marks 70 years of Independence. During the World Health Organization’s 142nd session of the Executive Board commenced in Geneva on Monday (22nd), Director-General of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus officially announced that the 70th World Health Day will be celebrated in Sri Lanka. “I’m pleased to announce that we will celebrate World Health Day in Sri Lanka, which is also celebrating its 70th birthday. I’d like to use this opportunity actually to say to Sri Lanka, happy 70 years of independence,” he said. This year, universal health coverage will be the theme both for World Health Day and the World Health Assembly. World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of WHO and this year the WHO marks 70th anniversary.The Director General congratulating Sri Lanka which celebrates the 70th Anniversary of its Independence next month, said “there is no more fitting place for this event, as you know, Sri Lanka has a long history of providing free healthcare for its people.”
In response Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, who is attending the WHO Executive Board as a Member, thanked the Director General of the WHO on the selection of Sri Lanka to celebrate this important event. He said Sri Lanka looks forward to welcoming Dr. Tedros and high-level officials of the WHO including the Regional Director, SEAR to this event. During his intervention Minister further said “my country is considered by most experts as a low cost, high impact, model of health care in South East Asia and the world. It has eliminated malaria, filariasis and neonatal tetanus as public health problems. Good achievements in maternal and child health care, high life expectancy, and near universal child immunization coverage has also been achieved.”
Dr. Senaratne highlighted the challenges countries like Sri Lanka face – namely fast aging populations, very high burden from NCDs, minimal and often inadequate elderly care packages and services and inequitable access to services for the disabled and vulnerable populations, and said that these services need to be strengthened. Sri Lanka urged the DG/WHO to sustain strong political advocacy at global level for Universal Health Care and also to consider putting together a binding international convention on improving coverage, access, financial protection and quality of care in support of Universal Health Care. The Sri Lanka delegation to the 142nd Executive Board of the WHO includes Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Ravinatha Aryasinha, Director General Health Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Chairman of National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol Dr. Palitha Abeykoon, Deputy Director General/Non-communicable Diseases Dr. Champika Wickramasinghe, Director Health Information Dr. A.I. Jagoda and Second Secretary of the Sri Lanka Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva Ms. Dulmini Dahanayake.