Address by Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region at the World Health Day Reception

7 April 2014

Distinguished Ambassadors and High Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure in welcoming you all on the occasion of World Health Day 2014. Every year, on 7 April, we celebrate the World Health Day, to mark not only the anniversary of WHO but also to highlight important health issues of global concern during the entire year. It is a very special day for everyone engaged in public health and people all over the world who are committed and dedicated to the health of the people. This year, the focus is on vector-borne diseases. Vector-borne diseases put more than half of the world’s population at risk, accounting for 17% of the estimated global burden of all infectious diseases. While malaria is the deadliest vector-borne disease, dengue has become fastest growing, with a 30-fold increase in disease incidence over the past 50 years. Some other vector-borne diseases like lymphatic filariasis and kala-azar continue to cause significant mortality and morbidity in our populations.

These diseases often affect the poorest of the communities, pushing them further in the vicious cycle of poverty. In spite of significant progress made in controlling malaria, filariasis and other diseases, the South-East Asia Region continues to carry a high burden of these diseases.

Excellencies, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

Vector-borne diseases control requires truly accelerated and multisectoral efforts. It demands for a high level of political commitment, sustainable human resource and financing and an active and empowered community, taking full ownership of vector control.

To coincide with World Health Day celebrations, I have convened a consultation of regional experts of vector-borne diseases to guide us in our efforts to control these diseases. Professor Pratap Singhasivanon is chairing this expert consultation and I shall invite him to brief us on some of the challenges and issues we must overcome to eliminate vector-borne diseases as a public health concern.