Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources

Speech by Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources

Press release   •   Jun 15, 2011 14:19 +08

Dr Shin Young-soo

WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific

Prof Satkunanantham Kandiah,
Director of Medical Services, Singapore Ministry of Health

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.

 1.            On behalf of the Singapore Government, I would like to welcome all guests to the official inauguration of the Environmental Health Institute as a World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research of Arbovirus and their Associated Vectors. I would like to congratulate the EHI for this recognition by the WHO.

 2.             Today is also the inaugural ASEAN Dengue Day. This symbolises the collective commitment of all ASEAN Member States to dengue prevention and control. 

 3.             Dengue fever poses a threat to all of us. The fact that it is preventable makes every single case, and especially a fatality, extra painful. Hence the importance of control measures and the need for collective action by everyone.  

 Shared Responsibility at the Individual Level

 4.            Since an effective vaccine against dengue is not available yet, the tried and tested strategy of source reduction will remain the mainstay of our dengue vector control programme for the foreseeable future.  However, effective  source reduction depends on everyone sharing in the collective responsibility to reduce mosquito breeding. One mosquito breeding site near a single infected person is all it takes to establish a chain of infection. In order to be safe, every single home or workplace in a neighbourhood has to be free of the mosquito vector. This is why it is essential to engage the community to ensure that every single person does his or her part to reduce the incidence of mosquito breeding.

 5.            To focus our minds on both the threat of dengue and our collective responsibility to prevent further transmission, NEA will continue to publicise the locations of active dengue transmission promptly, so that residents are kept informed and can take the necessary precautions. 

 Inter-sectoral coordination

 6.            Different sectors of the community also need to play their part for vector control. The complexity of the disease requires concerted multi-disciplinary efforts and communication among various stakeholders, such as field officers, medical practitioners, policymakers and the community.  

 7.            The Inter-Agency Dengue Taskforce led by the National Environment Agency has been instrumental in coordinating the dengue control efforts of the stakeholders. This coordinated approach has proven effective in dealing with chikungunya outbreaks in 2008 and 2009, as well as contributed to the reversal of the dengue trend in Singapore in the last three years.

 International collaboration

 8.            Regionally, dengue has made a comeback since the 1990s. Not only has it re-emerged in traditional areas, it has also emerged in new areas in the sub-tropical temperate region. The disease burden has remained high within ASEAN. 

 9.            The  speed at which dengue has re-emerged illustrates that the virus does not respect geographical boundaries. Recognising the importance of cross-border linkages, Singapore supported WHO in the formulation of the Asia-Pacific Dengue Strategic Plan 2008-2015. The Plan provides a road map for Member States in the WHO Western Pacific and South East Asia region to develop their own national dengue prevention and control plan. Under the Plan, Singapore has thus far hosted the Asia Pacific Dengue Programme Managers’ Meeting and two rounds of Asia Pacific Dengue Workshops to facilitate knowledge exchange and capacity-building.  

 Roles of EHI as a WHO Collaborating Centre

 10.         The designation of EHI as a WHO Collaborating Centre for the Reference and Research on Arbovirus and their Associated Vectors is an acknowledgement of EHI’s tireless efforts to promote international collaboration.

 11.         As a WHO Collaborating Centre, EHI will forge closer linkages between scientific experts from different disciplines, so that we can synthesise innovative solutions to the dengue problem. EHI will also work with other international institutions to promote a regional surveillance network, to facilitate the timely exchange of surveillance information. This will improve the region’s collective readiness and response to any arboviral disease outbreak in the future. 

 12.         I am heartened to know that the EHI will hit the ground running after this ceremony with the inaugural Dengue Symposium. This Symposium, which is organized for domestic and overseas clinicians and public health practitioners, will enable the sharing of best practices and perspectives on dengue prevention and control.

 Conclusion

 13.         As a member of the global community, Singapore is committed to supporting the WHO’s efforts in their international fight against dengue. Our efforts alone can only go so far. We will need the continued support of our partners, both local and overseas, to achieve our goal of reducing the burden of dengue on our societies.   

 14.         On this note, I wish the EHI a successful journey ahead as a WHO Collaborating Centre and for everyone here, a most fruitful and engaging discussion at the Dengue Symposium.

 15.         Thank you.