'WHO has a role in Bangladesh's progress in health sector'

Speakers at the roundtable titled ‘World Health Organization in Bangladesh: A 50-year Journey’ was held at the WHO office in DhakaKhaled Sarker

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been with Bangladesh for 50 years. This specialised organisation of the United Nations (UN) has an important role in all the achievements and progress of Bangladesh in the health sector. Bangladesh needs support and assistance from this organisation in various sectors in the coming days as well.

Public health experts, WHO representatives and government officials said this in a roundtable in the capital on Tuesday. The roundtable titled ‘World Health Organization in Bangladesh: A 50-year Journey’ was held at the WHO office in Dhaka. Prothom Alo was the media partner of the programme.

The WHO celebrated the platinum jubilee of its foundation. The agency has been working with Bangladesh for 50 years. Employees of this international agency served the people of the country in the refugee camps during the liberation war. Several speakers recalled this in the roundtable. Many of them share their personal experience. Some mentioned the challenges as well.

Former director general of the Directorate General of Health Services and former dean of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital Md Abul Foyez got affiliated with the WHO in 1981. He visited the WHO headquarters 52 times at different times for various works so far. He has the experience of working as the advisor and consultant in several committees of the organisation.

He said the Bangladesh office of the WHO has been continuing to provide technical assistance in the health sector. They have provided assistance in fighting Malaria, black-fever, filariasis, nipah virus and bird flu. They also have played an important role in the health programmes related to maternal and child health and developing a competent health human resource.

Former director of the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) professor Mahmudur Rahman has served in various important posts of WHO, including the chairman of the Pandemic Influenza Review Committee.

He said the World Health Organization has been monitoring the influenza situation for over 71 years. It reviews the data collected from across the world every year in February and September and based on this data, the decision to produce the vaccine is made.

Mahmudur Rahman criticised some recent initiatives. He said in the past the WHO used to appoint the advisors and consultants from among the experts through selection. Now people will have to appeal to get appointed in these posts. Many eligible candidates will be deprived from these posts as a result of this.

Bardhan Jong Rana, the Bangladesh representative of the WHO, thanked the organisers for organising such a programme.

He said that Bangladesh has made significant progress in several sectors, including vaccination, maternal health, child health and increase in the average life expectancy. The WHO has supported and assisted Bangladesh in these programmes.

Former health minister professor AFM Ruhul Haque said in a video message that the then WHO director general Margaret Chan visited Bangladesh during his tenure. He said the WHO was always by the side of Bangladesh. The election of Saima Wazed as the director of WHO’s South-East Asia region is a significant incident, he said.

Three DGHS officials highlighted the contribution of the WHO in the roundtable. Directorate General of Medical Education (DGME) additional director general professor Bayezid Khurshid Riyaz said the WHO has saved the world from turning into a hell due diseases and epidemics.

Director of the government’s disease control unit Md Nazmul Islam said WHO’s Dhaka office and its headquarters in Geneva has helped Bangladesh in developing policies and guidelines.  However, the organisation never gets the deserved appraisals. 

Director at the Department of Non-communicable Disease Control Programme under the DGHS Robed Amin said the WHO has set 65 important milestones in the last 75 years. One of the most notable among these milestones is the Alma Ata Declaration during the international conference on primary health care held in Kazakhstan. The slogan “Health for All” was introduced in this conference. He believes the organisation has scopes to further involve in programmes related to snake bites and cancer.

IEDCR advisor Mohammad Mushtuq Husain remembered the WHO activists who lost their lives during different wars across the world. He said there is discrimination in the health sector. There is room for the WHO to work on that. Many countries snap communication with countries reportedly have identified a new virus. It’s not right. Therefore, an amendment of the international health guideline is needed.

The WHO has been contributing in the improvement of the mental health of the people of Bangladesh since 1997, said National Mental Health Institute’s assistant professor Helal Uddin Ahmed. There are mental health related guidelines and laws in the country. The WHO has helped Bangladesh develop those.

Assistant director of BRAC University Center for Health System and UHC Nahitun Nahar said the WHO provides assistance to five of their research centres.