While it is good to see a delegation from Bangladesh participating in the upcoming World Health Assembly in Geneva– a few of our delegates will speak about autism in two side events – that the 34-member delegation resorted to extortion to fund their travels for the conference is unacceptable.
Ruling party members, who have little to do with the Ministry of Health, allegedly put pressure on it to join the delegation. Meanwhile, the ministry, rather than putting its foot down, is reported to have abused its power. Health sector contractors, representatives of medicine companies and owners of hospitals and clinics alleged that the ministry forced them to provide grants and sponsorships for the trip.
Add to that the composition of the members, and the whole story reads like a pack of party-goers going on vacation, with some exceptions.
It is absurd that so many members allegedly joined after lobbying the health ministry with the argument that this was their last opportunity to go on an official trip abroad, were the ruling Awami League to lose the upcoming election.
The conference should be taken as an opportunity for Bangladesh to learn more about autism, and bring back the knowledge learned at the conference and apply it here. Instead, most delegates are reportedly taking it as an opportunity for a last-minute vacation.
Unfortunately, this practice is nothing new for our nation, as public funds have been used before by delegates for trips abroad. This must change if we are to truly move forward.
And delegates would do well to remember that a world conference on healthcare is not an excuse for a vacation to Switzerland, unless the funds come out of their own pockets.
That they resorted to such questionable means and wasted the time and opportunity that would have been fruitful towards the nation and its people is little short of scandalous.
The health ministry may have cried foul but that is not an acceptable response. The buck stops at its door, and, as such, it should be held accountable for its actions.