Statement by H.E. Dr. Mohamed Washeed, Vice President of Maldives, at the High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (19 September 2011)

Mr President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,


While worldwide, substantial gains have been achieved in economic growth, health, and living standards in the past century, this progress is now threatened by crises of our own creation—climate change, finance and food insecurities, and the crisis in Non-Communicable Diseases, principally heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancers, and chronic respiratory disease.


The increase in non-communicable diseases presents a global crisis; in almost all countries, in particular the developing countries, in all income groups, men, women, and children are all at risk of these diseases leading to a major barrier to development and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. We are appalled by the statistics revealed here by Dr. Margaret Chen Director General of the World Health Organization. We applaud the efforts of the WHO and other UN Agencies and non governmental organizations for their tireless efforts to mobilize the international community.


Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen
The main risk factors for NCDs are well known and are similar in all countries. All high risk factors for NCD such as Tobacco use, foods high in saturated and transfats, salt, and sugar are all within our control.


Therefore the first key action for success is strong and sustained political leadership at the highest level. The top priority of this UN High-Level Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases should be in strengthening political resolve for the accelerated implementation of all aspects of the FCTC and other methods needed to achieve a world essentially free of tobacco. Health systems strengthening with a focus in primary health care and access to cost effective preventive measures need greater focus. Prevention of NCDs is also inextricably linked with climate change and the need for low carbon policies which Maldives continue to highlight at international platforms. Healthy living conditions and lifestyles are part of a sustainable development approach linked to preventing and adapting to the adverse effects of climate change.


At national level we commit ourselves to strengthening our health systems, generate resources and earmark funds for universal access to prevention and control of NCDs through multi-sectoral collaboration. At national, regional and global level we must take responsibility and be accountable to monitor the progress based on targets for prevention and control of NCDs at regular intervals.


The geographical dispersion of our small population in 200 islands scattered over 1000 kilometers of the Indian Ocean pauses particularly difficult challenges. However, we have been successful in eradicating polio, Malaria and many other childhood diseases. We are confident that we will be able substantially reduce the burden of NCDs on our health system in the years to come. We have recently introduced telemedicine in about forty islands to promote early detection and treatment. We have introduced new legislation to control the sale and use of tobacco. We are redesigning our urban areas to create recreational areas and we are working with civil society to raise greater awareness and to promote healthy lifestyles. The support we have received from the United Nations and the international community have contributed immensely to successes in public health in Maldives. Similar support will be important to continue our efforts to prevent and control NCDs.


Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen
The global community should not lose this opportunity but sustain the momentum to achieve the goal of avoiding premature NCD deaths and disability, thus improving global health in the years to come. This is an obligation we have towards our future generations. Thank you for your unanimous support to the political declaration on the prevention and control of non communicable diseases.


Thank you.