Thimpu / Geneva / New York. 10 October 2002 - There are few Ministers who would walk over 500 kilometers for the health of their country, but Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup, Bhutan's Minister of Health and Education, is different. The Minister has just completed a 16-day walk across the country's difficult terrain, mobilizing attention to the importance of health as well as mobilizing over $1 million dollars (US) for Bhutan's Health Trust Fund.
The Minister started his walk on 25 September, World Health Day, whose theme this year is "Move for Health". In addition to promoting healthy living through exercise, a key objective of the walk was to mobilize support for the Health Trust Fund, set up to ensure the sustainability of immunization and primary health care services for Bhutan. The walk is also a tribute to Bhutan's health workers who walk daily to remote, difficult-to-reach areas to deliver immunization and other health services across the country.
"We applaud the Minister for his commitment to immunization and health," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF and Chair of GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. "GAVI is about re-invigorating immunization and ensuring sustainability and Minister Ngedup is setting an example for others."
The Minister and his team, carrying their own provisions in backpacks, stopped in different districts across the country to remind villagers of the importance of health. Many districts, called "Dzongkhag", contributed their own resources towards the Trust Fund. In some parts of the walk, students, local officials and villagers have joined the Minister and his team in support of the event.
"Sustainability is not only about money, it is about responsibility," says Minister Ngedup, "It's about people themselves being responsible."
Individuals, organizations, and nations were invited to sponsor the walk via the Move for Health Bhutan
( http://www.move4health.gov.bt/route.html ) and the American Himalayan Foundation websites. Sponsorship was sought on a distance, hourly or daily basis, and each dollar or rupee raised was matched by the government of Bhutan. The ultimate aim is to create a trust fund of $25 million to provide free immunization, essential drugs and primary healthcare.
For further information or B-roll, please contact:
In Thimpu: Heidi Larson, Tel: +975 322 424, firstname.lastname@example.org
In New York,
In Geneva: Lisa Jacobs, GAVI Secretariat, +41 22 909 5042, email@example.com