بســم اللّـه الرّحمـن الرّحيــم
Excellencies, Ministers, the Secretary General of SAARC, distinguished members of the various delegations, ladies and gentlemen;
Assalaam Alaikum and good morning.
Let me first welcome you all to the beautiful Maldives and thank you for accepting our invitation and joining us here for this important meeting.
Despite the busy schedule during this three day meeting, I hope that you will get to enjoy the beautiful Paradise.
The 4th meeting of the SAARC Health Ministers is being held, I understand, after a considerable period since the last meeting was held in 2006.
Over the past 6 years, there have been many changes in the ground reality of diseases and the conditions affecting the health of our peoples. There have been many changes in how our countries are dealing with such realities.
Therefore, this meeting is being held at a very critical time, when there is a need for all of us to pool our resources, to apprise ourselves of the many changes to agree on useful and effective solutions.
Ladies and Gentleman;
While we realize the difference in the burden of certain diseases and the priorities that countries may set for themselves, we are also aware of the regional and global dimensions of health as such we do not doubt the critical importance of collaborative and concerted actions across countries and the significance of regional health institutions in attending to these concerns.
Global and regional cooperation have helped in combating common challenges facing our countries, and with SAARC’s history of cooperation and success in regional initiatives, I am confident that a greater corporation can continue to play a pivotal role in achieving better health goals for our people.
Such collaboration not only makes economic sense and results in efficiency, but also lead to greater understanding of the nature of the present challenges and fosters clear-cut responses.
I am confident that SAARC Health Ministers meeting serves as a platform for exchange of ideas and experience for achieving the SAARC health objective: “A Better health profile for South Asia”.
I am happy to note that the topics Your Excellencies and distinguished delegates will discuss today include some of the most pressing health issues in the region, including topics related to sanitation, HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases, and nutrition.
I am sure your deliberation on the follow-up of the recommendations of the 3rd meeting of the SAARC Health Ministers in Dhaka in 2006, as well as many other ongoing initiatives and projects will be engaging and fruitful.
It is also heartening to note that many of the new initiatives and recommendations proposed for this meeting, including the SAARC Regional Strategy on Communicable Diseases, have stemmed from the outcomes of expert group meetings and are in line with the decisions and declarations of the recently held SAARC Summit.
I am also confident that this forum, over the coming years would continue to address regional health issues, including, as informed by the UN High Level Summit on NCD’s, the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases, challenges faced by many small countries in the area of Human Resources for Health, and the very real threat of bio-terrorism, which require cohesive strategies and approaches across all countries of the region.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentleman;
Today in Maldives, we face unprecedented challenges to our health system. These include, irresponsible and ill-informed intervention in the organisation and management of the health system. It includes, dismantling of public health system that was built over many years of meticulous efforts. It also includes experimentation with the management of the system based on political activists rather than health professionals. It includes complete neglect of prevention and primary health care.
Today we are faced with a system where the introduction of a universal health insurance system without adequate controls has lead to possibilities for rampant corruption. All this is coming at a time when we are exposed, more than ever before, to global pandemics and when the burden of particularly non-communicable diseases is increasing – when we are at the cusp of possible explosion of HIV/AIDS. Such irresponsible experimentation is inexcusable and criminal interference with the rights of citizens to quality health care.
As an enthusiastic and active member of the SAARC, Maldives has always looked at our Association as the most important forum for our long-standing friendship, the spirit of cooperation and collaboration in this region.
As a resource deficient, small island nation, vulnerable and exposed to environmental challenges, we are encouraged to see SAARC actively engaged and playing a central role in this very important area of protecting human health, and would like to reaffirm our firm commitment to these goals.
As a long term recipient of developmental aid, both financial and technical, from international agencies, friendly countries and through SAARC, the Maldives can appreciate very well, what international and regional cooperation means for developing countries.
And to this end, we believe the initiatives under the auspices of the meetings of SAARC Health Ministers, would greatly enhance our common understanding and capacity to deal with regional health challenges and thereby realizing the right for a healthy life for our peoples.
In conclusion, I wish your Excellencies and distinguished delegates, healthy and engaging discussions that would culminate in useful and actionable outcomes and recommendations.
We thank the SAARC Secretariat for its continued assistance in hosting this important gathering.
Honourable Ministers, distinguished delegates and participants;
We are honoured by your presence in our small country and we are indeed privileged to be your host. Once again, I wish the meeting success, and hope you will find some time to relax and enjoy the beautiful environment.