Press Release

Press Release: Sixth Meeting of the SAARC Ministers of Health and preceding Meeting of Senior Officials, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 27-29 July 2017

The Meeting of the Health Ministers was inaugurated by Honourable Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine of Sri Lanka.


The Secretary General of SAARC, H.E. Mr. Amjad Hussain B. Sial, addressed the Inauguration Ceremony and thanked the Government of Sri Lanka for hosting this important meeting and recalled that SAARC’s leaders have time and again underlined the imperative of improved health of the peoples of South Asia. He also highlighted the fact that, though South Asia has seen the improvement in health care facilities across the region, medical care and treatment is still not easily available, are expensive and at times not affordable by the people at large. Hence, the Secretary General urged that every attempt must be made to reach out to the poor with basic health facilities at affordable prices and this should be a priority for SAARC.


The Secretary General made a suggestion for consideration of the Health Ministers Meeting regarding establishment of a South Asian Medical University, which could enable South Asian students to study medicine within the region at affordable cost.


Honourable Dr. Senaratne, in his address at the Ceremony, pointed out that non-communicable diseases, malnutrition and tuberculosis are identified as major health issues facing the people of South Asia. In this context, Minister Senaratne shared the experience of Sri Lanka in curbing the increase in non-communicable diseases and highlighted the important role of universal access to education and the empowerment of women.


On the suggestion of the establishing a South Asian Medical University, Minister Senaratne welcomed the proposal by the Secretary General and announced that they would be happy to host the Medical University in Sri Lanka. The Meeting concurred with suggestion and offer by the Government of Sri Lanka.


The Health Ministers adopted a “Colombo Declaration – Calling for accelerated progress on key Regional Health Issues”, which made recommendations on important areas related to public health such as Vector-Borne Diseases, Non-Communicable Diseases, Nutrition, Sanitation, traditional systems of medicines and Human Resources for Health. The Declaration also agreed to collaborate at a regional level, to safeguard the health of migrants.


The Health Ministers Meeting took a number of other important decisions for enhancing cooperation among Member States of SAARC for improving health care facilities.


The SAARC Technical Committee on Health and Population Activities, will further discuss and follow-up on the decisions made by the Sixth Meeting of the Ministers of Health, in its next Meeting scheduled to be held in Islamabad, Pakistan in December 2017.


Kathmandu, 30 July 2017