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Amitabh Bachchan cancels visit to attend WHO meeting in Maldives

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan has canceled a visit to the Maldives to speak at the annual session of the World Health Organisation’s regional committee for Southeast Asia.
A senior manager at the Paradise Island Resort, which is hosting the WHO meeting, confirmed to the Maldives Independent that Bachchan’s booking at the resort was cancelled Thursday upon request of the government.

According to local media, the government informed the resort that the trip was called off at the last minute due to health issues.

The cancellation comes after a social media campaign launched by MP Ahmed Mahloof, the spokesman for the four-party opposition coalition, urging the legendary actor to boycott the Maldives in protest against the deteriorating human rights situation. Several opposition supporters echoed the call on Twitter, tagging Bachchan with posters of his films remade to highlight the jailing of opposition leaders.

Bachchan was appointed the Goodwill Ambassador for Hepatitis in South-East Asia Region in May. He was due to advocate for urgent action against viral hepatitis, a preventable disease that kills approximately 410,000 people in the region annually.

Exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed meanwhile claimed that the Indian health minister’s decision not to attend the meeting was “a further sign of [President Abdulla Yameen’s] isolation”.

India is represented by a health ministry official at the seventieth session of the regional committee that commenced Thursday morning. The committee is WHO’s governing body for the Southeast Asia region and meets in September every year.

According to the WHO, the five-day meeting will focus on “building health systems’ resilience to climate change.”

“A well prepared and responsive health system is crucial for preventing and minimising the increasing health risks posed by climate change,” the organisation said.

“Improving access to essential medicines for all, intensifying efforts to end tuberculosis, vector control, eliminating hepatitis and road safety are among key issues to be discussed.”

Health Minister Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim and Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee, as a special envoy of the president, addressed the inaugural session of the annual meeting.

The Southeast Asia regional committee is comprised of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

Speaking at the inaugural session, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia Region, and WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom, commended the members states “for a series of recent public health achievements, including region-wide elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus, elimination of malaria and lymphatic filariasis by Maldives and Sri Lanka; elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis by Thailand; yaws elimination by India, and most recently measles elimination by Bhutan and Maldives and lymphatic filariasis elimination by Thailand.”

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