The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently recognised the efforts of our health system to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus. We have been hugely successful in these areas of health issues. It is good news that the countries in South-East Asia have made remarkable progress in the area of maternal and child health in the recent years.

For Bhutan, though, this recognition is particularly important.  Between 1990 and 2015, Bhutan reduced child mortality by 64 percent and maternal mortality by 69 percent. At the same time, global averages were dawdling at about 52 percent and 44 percent respectively. For a small nation that is challenged with finance and human resource issues, this is no small feat.

The proof that we attach special importance to developing our health system and services is that Bhutan today has 31 hospitals, 235 Basic Health Units and Sub-Posts, 52 Indigenous Units, and 562 Outreach Clinics that provide both traditional and modern medicine.

Much remains to be done, however. Although we have fared well with most of the MDGs, ensuring equitable access to quality services and reducing preventable deaths are still issues that we continue to confront. More importantly, we are faced with the issue of expanding health workforce and training more skilled birth attendants to prevent maternal and child mortality.

We have 185 doctors are working in various facilities in the country, including expatriates recruited from India, Cuba, Myanmar, Japan and Germany. Fourteen dzongkhags have three or more doctors. The nurse to bed ratio stands at 1:7. However, according to WHO reports, the density of health care providers in the region is 12.5 per 10,000 people, which is far less than the WHO-recommended minimum of 44.5 per 10,000.

We are a country with the vision of becoming a nation with the best health. We may have made significant progress in achieving both national and international goals and targets, but challenges are also growing in the light of rising population and small health workforce. Also, we are grappling with rising trend of non-communicable diseases and are still battling with communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS, MDR-TB, STIs, and emerging climate-sensitive diseases.

We rightly deserve the WHO recognition for all the efforts we have hitherto made. This must also encourage us to do more to strengthen our health and monitoring systems. MDGs are just benchmarks. We can and must do more to make this our small nation truly a nation with the best health.