Bhutan Launches Ambitious Pandemic Fund Project with One Health Approach

In a significant stride towards bolstering its defenses against future pandemics, Bhutan has embarked on a groundbreaking initiative with the launch of the Pandemic Fund project titled “Strengthening Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response through One Health Approach.” This collaborative effort, jointly unveiled on July 5 by the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, marks a pivotal moment in the nation’s public health strategy.

Supported by a substantial USD 4.95 million in funding from the World Bank’s Pandemic Fund Secretariat, this three-year project sets out to enhance Bhutan’s resilience across human health, animal health, and environmental sectors. The initiative, scheduled to conclude on December 31, 2026, aims to fortify the country’s capacity in surveillance, early warning systems, laboratory infrastructure, and workforce training.

At the heart of this endeavor lies the One Health approach, a comprehensive strategy that integrates efforts across human, animal, and environmental health domains. Recognizing the interconnectedness of these sectors, the project seeks to establish a robust national framework capable of preemptively identifying and responding to potential health threats.

Health Minister Tandin Wangchuk highlighted Bhutan’s unique vulnerabilities, stemming from its geographical setting and socioeconomic dynamics. With increased trade and demand for livestock products, the risk of infectious disease outbreaks and novel pathogen spillovers escalates, underscoring the urgency of proactive measures.

Key components of the project include the operationalization of the Bhutan One Health Secretariat (BOHS) and the enhancement of intersectoral communication channels. These initiatives are set to streamline coordination among governmental bodies, ensuring swift and coordinated responses during health emergencies.

Moreover, the project allocates specific funding to critical areas: USD 2.4 million for human health initiatives, USD 587,416 for joint One Health activities, and USD 1.9 million for animal health improvements. This financial backing will facilitate the upgrading of surveillance systems, the strengthening of laboratory capacities, and the development of a skilled workforce equipped to tackle complex health challenges.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are pivotal partners in this ambitious endeavor, overseeing the implementation of health and animal health components respectively. Their expertise and global networks are expected to enhance Bhutan’s capabilities in disease detection, prevention, and response.

The launch event, attended by dignitaries including Priya Basu of the Pandemic Fund and WHO’s Dr. Bhupinder Kaur, underscored international support and collaboration essential for the project’s success. Members of Bhutan’s Inter-Ministerial Committee for One Health (IMCOH) also participated, emphasizing the project’s inclusive approach and cross-sectoral cooperation.

Looking ahead, Bhutan aims to achieve a robust early warning system and a holistic disease surveillance network by December 2026. These efforts are poised to strengthen the nation’s readiness to combat pandemics effectively while fostering sustainable health security for its citizens.

As Bhutan navigates the complexities of global health challenges, the launch of this transformative initiative stands as a testament to proactive governance and international solidarity in safeguarding public health through innovative approaches.

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