Washington D.C. 4 June 2019 (PAHO) – The Surinamese Minister of Health, Antoine Elias, yesterday presented the country’s health situation and strategic health priorities to an audience including the Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, and department directors, during an official visit to PAHO in Washington D.C.

Surinamese Minister of Health, Dr. Yitades Gebre, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne

As one of the eight key countries outlined in PAHO’s Strategic Plan 2014-2019, the organization continues to support efforts towards improving the health of the people of Suriname in four priority areas: reducing inequities in health, strengthening health systems; addressing the social and environmental determinants of health; and achieving universal access to health and universal health coverage.

During his presentation, Minister Elias thanked PAHO for its technical cooperation, and highlighted the country’s efforts to reach 95% vaccination coverage, eliminate malaria and reduce maternal mortality.

“According to the Constitution of Suriname, everyone has the right to health,” said Minister Elias. “It is the responsibility of the State to promote general health-care by systemic improvement of living and working conditions and to give information on the protection of health,” he added.

The Minister presented achievements that the country has made over the past year towards improving the health of its population, including the renovation of the Academic Hospital in Paramaribo, the installation and use of waste incinerators, the expansion of the country’s basic health insurance program, and the implementation of technical committees in order to advance areas such as oncology.

Dr. Etienne thanked the Minister for Suriname’s continued collaboration on the implementation of the strategic plan. “It is important that we continue a close working relationship with Member States so as to collectively address remaining and emerging health challenges, as well as to maintain achievements in health,” she added.

For the PAHO Representative in Suriname, Dr. Yitades Gebre, one of the country’s primary achievements has been its implementation of comprehensive tobacco legislation. He highlighted that Suriname continues to work with the MPOWER measures to help reduce the demand for tobacco, and that taxation for tobacco remains at the highest level in the Region.

The country is also working to reduce other non-communicable diseases, including cervical cancer by “addressing the barriers stopping women from accessing basic services at the community level.” 

“The goal remains high, but we must work towards the prevention of cervical cancer, not only through screening but also through providing the HPV vaccine,” he said.

Dr. Etienne congratulated Suriname for its efforts in tobacco control. “When a small country can take on big industry, that is a significant achievement,” she said.

The PAHO Director concluded the meeting by highlighting that the case of Suriname “is a good example of how the Secretariat should work with a government that is committed to the health of its people.”

“Suriname proves that much can still be achieved with limited resources, including in reducing tobacco use and tackling diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis,” she added.