WHO: Former health and education minister Sangay Ngedup, who was recently conferred the Excellence in Public Health award in Timor-Leste said that the recognition has come at a time when the country is celebrating the 60th birth anniversary of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

Speaking at the award function, the former minister said that the Fourth Druk Gyalpo always emphasised on balanced sustainable development with focus on social sector.

“This gave birth to the Bhutan Health Trust Fund, through a royal charter and we launched it in 1998,” he said. “The trust fund today is the main backbone of our primary health care, financing essential drugs, vaccines, syringes and needles.”

As he receives the award, the former minister said that the next thing that comes to his mind is his highest regard to the health workers.

“I have seen them in action. I have seen them sacrifice. I have seen their dedication. They traverse through treacherous forests infested with wild animals, scaled up high passes,” he said. “To them we owe the success of our primary health care and I pay tribute to them.”

The World Health Organisation South-East Asia Region (WHO SEARO) honoured the former minister for setting up the Bhutan Health Trust Fund (BHTF), to fund vaccines and essential drugs. The former President of Timor-Leste Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao was also conferred the award at the event.

The former minister, who oversaw the expansion of health infrastructure as well as health services during a decade of service and left behind the legacy of the health trust fund, shared at the event an incident that has always stayed on his mind.

“And that was a young health worker who left his young family, crossed a monsoon fed river to help save lives on the other side of the river to vaccinate children,” he said. “The river swept him and we never saw him. Such is the sacrifice.”

The people of Bhutan, he said, are proud of its success in primary health care and it’s largely due to the bilateral and multilateral donors. The WHO, he said, has played an instrumental role with their technical assistance, guidance and advises.

“So I accept this award on behalf of people I have mentioned. I am just or was a facilitator and I thank all members of SEARO for giving my country and me this honour,” he said. “One last message I would like to give my colleagues in the health sector of Bhutan is that, in the 21st century, the technological developments have gone beyond our wildest dreams. The way forward is challenging but at the same time, comfortable. To them I would like to say – never forget the spirit of how the health sector was built particularly the primary health care.”

Sonam Pelden