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UNFPA goodwill ambassador concludes eastern tour

The UNFPA goodwill ambassador, Her Majesty the Queen, Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck, returned to Thimphu on April 9, 2006 after a two-week high level advocacy campaign on HIV/AIDS and reproductive health in Lhuentse and Trashiyangtse.

During the tour, from March 28 to April 9, 2006 Her Majesty met with the people of Kurtoe, Gangzur, Jari, Menbi, and Tshenkhar and held discussions on wide range of health issues like reproductive health (focusing on safe motherhood, institutional delivery and family planning), HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy, substance abuse and general health and hygiene.

During the meetings Her Majesty told people that Bhutan today was facing several emerging health issues that needed immediate attention.

Latest health statistics of the Lhuentse hospital showed that the general health condition, including family planning and institutional delivery, had improved drastically in the dzongkhag.

Laya Gasa
Her Majesty was impressed with the dzongkhag's overall improvement on hygiene and sanitation condition, nutritional health and on the fact that there were no maternal deaths in 2005 in Lhuentse.

The dzongkhag also boasted four women chimis out of five in the dzongkhag.

Queen
The UNFPA goodwill ambassador, Her Majesty the Queen Mother, Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck
The joint director of the information communication bureau of the health ministry, Sonam Phuntsho, told Kuensel that Her Majesty was looking at the greater involvement of communities including religious bodies in combating the health issues.

"There is a need for everyone to take responsibility for both individual and community health," he said, adding that gender was another issue the goodwill ambassador was advocating.

Dr. Sonam Ugen of the public health department said that some of the health issues were cross-cutting requiring involvement of all sections of the society.

Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck also met with the members of the multi-sectoral task force (MSTF) of Lhuntse and Trashiyangtse dzongkhags and reviewed their activities in advocating HIV/AIDS, STD and reproductive health issues among the general public.

Her Majesty speaks to students of Menbi gewog in Lhuentse
She told the MSTF members that they should look into ways of broadening the scope of the organisation. "MSTF should not be seen just as a health organisation and should be prepared to look into other social issues," she said.

For example, MSTF could mobilise relief and aid in case of floods and organise fire fighting brigades in case of fires.

Ever since Her Majesty assumed the post of UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador in January 1999, she has travelled to all 20 dzongkhags on various advocacy efforts.

Her Majesty initiated the pap spear campaign in Gunitsawa, Laya and Lingshi to reduce the cases of cervical cancer in women. In all her public meetings Her Majesty has been stressing institutional delivery so as to reduce the high rate of maternal mortality in the country.
Her Majesty's advocacy tours resulted in founding of Renew, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the relief and empowerment of disadvantaged women and adolescent girls in Bhutan.

Established in 2004, the organisation aims to integrate disadvantaged women into mainstream society as socially and economically independent productive members by providing capacity development opportunities.

This article was contributed by Gopilal Acharya, KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper, 2006

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