Jigmi Wangdi

The Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock on July 5 jointly launched the Pandemic Fund project titled “Strengthening Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response through One Health Approach in Bhutan”.

One Health is a multi-sectorial approach to reach optimum health outcomes encompassing humans, animals and the environment.

The launch marked the government’s initiative, supported by the World Bank’s Pandemic Fund Secretariat, towards bolstering the nation’s defences against pandemics.

The collaborative effort has secured USD 4.95 million in funding from the Pandemic Fund Secretariat that was announced in August 2023.

The project focuses on three main areas: surveillance and early warning, laboratory systems, and workforce strengthening across human health, animal health, and One Health sectors.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) serves as the implementing entity for the human health and One Health components, while the FAO oversees the animal health component. The project, spanning three years, will conclude on December 31, 2026.

Health Minister Tandin Wangchuk said Bhutan’s vulnerability to disease outbreaks is heightened by its geographical location and socioeconomic factors. He shared that the increasing demand for livestock products and cross-border trade exacerbates the risks of novel pathogen spillover.

The project aims to fortify Bhutan’s national health system resilience and emergency preparedness through a comprehensive One Health approach.


Key components of the project

One of the components is operationalising the Bhutan One Health Secretariat (BOHS). Established at the Royal Centre for Disease Control, Serbithang, the BOHS was inaugurated on November 3, 2020. It serves as the secretariat to the Inter-Ministerial Committee for One Health (IMCOH).

The project will support the institutionalisation of a sustainable One Health mechanism, operationalise BOHS, and implement activities to enhance pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. It also aims to establish an intersectoral communication framework.

Another component is strengthening surveillance and early warning. The project prioritises developing standard operating procedures, staff training, and upgrading web-based surveillance systems across all One Health sectors. It also enhances community-based surveillance by training up to 500 community and animal health workers.

Additionally, efforts will focus on enhancing laboratories for food, human health, and animal health to meet quality standards. This includes establishing quality assurance mechanisms, biosafety, and biosecurity protocols, as well as upgrading facilities and enhancing the skills of laboratory staff.

The project also supports the development of human resource capacity in the One Health sector, aiming to create a national workforce registry. It will enhance education through training and continuous education platforms in areas such as antimicrobial resistance, risk communication, biorepository management, and advanced epidemiology to better prepare the country for future pandemics.

The project’s funding breakdown includes USD 2.4 million for human health activities, USD 587,416 for One Health joint activities, and USD 1.9 million for animal health activities, amounting to a total of USD 4.9 million.

By December 2026, Bhutan aims to establish a functional early warning and holistic disease surveillance system, synergise approaches to health emergency preparedness and response, and enhance cooperation among One Health sectors for effective pandemic response efforts.

The event saw the presence of dignitaries, including Priya Basu, executive head of the Pandemic Fund, and Dr Bhupinder Kaur, WHO country representative.

Members of the IMCOH and other stakeholders attended the launch.