Need political will to fight drug resistance, Ebola: WHO

Kolkata: The World Health Organisation's Southeast Asia Regional Office (SEARO) has called for heightened political will to tackle emerging threats of non-communicable diseases (NCD), microbial drug resistance and Ebola-like disease outbreaks in the region.

"NCDs (diabetes, cancer) are approaching like a juggernaut, threatening communities, health systems and economies... if we do not act now... over 60 million have died in India and this will cross a 100 million by 2030 according to estimates.

"Estimates of future economic loss in India due to NCDs run into trillions of dollars. We can't hope to outrun NCDs without an environment that requires and stimulates action in the many sectors that impact on health-finance, trade, agriculture and education," Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO-SEARO, said at the opening of the 14th World Congress on Public Health here Wednesday.

Referring to the deadly Ebola outbreak, Singh said it is a "dramatic" call to arms. She said it is important to recognise that health is an "outcome of political will" both within and between countries. "The outbreak to Ebola is not just a wake-up call. It is a dramatic call to arms. We need clear lines of command. We need funds and people that can be mobilised at short notice.

"We have to have people that are trained for the job and we need international health regulations with teams. Yes, this has implications for national sovereignty but if we cannot find the political will to support solidarity in these circumstances then we need our oppositions exposed to the next surprise that our microbial world will throw at us. This is totally unacceptable in my view," she said.

Singh highlighted the threat of antimicrobial resistance or drug resistance. "Antimicrobial resistance if not checked and if not checked soon can return us to an era where we will be stripped of tools that today we take for granted," she said.

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