On April 23, 2020 India participated in The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) health ministers virtual conference hosted by Pakistan to promote great regional cooperation to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.The meeting was chaired by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza and SAARC Secretary-General- Esala Ruwan Weerakoon also attended the virtual conference.
- During the virtual conference SAARC countries agreed to enhance cooperation in the health sector, particularly in the context of efforts to combat the virus at the regional level.
- India was represented by Rajiv Garg, the Director General of Health Services who was assisted by experts from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Most SAARC countries were represented at the official level.
India’s presentation in the meeting
i.A detailed presentation at the conference on how it responds to the situation & about its efforts to increase production of medicines and essential materials besides its research on drugs and vaccines to confront the pandemic.
ii.Highlighted the successful use and promising future of new and innovative technology-based solutions such as the mobile app ‘Aarogya Setu’ to maximize community outreach and intervention.
iii.Creation of a dedicated website developed by SAARC Disaster Management Centre in Gandhinagar and promoting a separate network of health and trade officials deal with the pandemic at the regional level.
Major Highlights in the meeting
- SAARC countries agreed to enhance cooperation in the health sector, especially in the context of efforts to combat the virus at the regional level & to work together to adopt international best practices keeping in view the specific socio-economic circumstances of South Asia.
- Discussed issues including real-time sharing of information and clinical data, capacity building among others.
i.The meeting comes over a month after India took the lead with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bring the SAARC leaders together through a video-conference.
ii.India has developed an electronic platform for all SAARC countries to exchange information on response mechanisms to deal with the pandemic. The platform will be launched for exchange of specialized information and tools on COVID-19 among designated health professionals in the region.
Headquarters– Kathmandu, Nepal
Member States– Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.