Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop announced a major Australian assistance to combat dengue fever in Sri Lanka. She made this announcement when she called on President Maithripala Sirisena at the President’s Residence in Colombo today (July 20).

Recalling that President Sirisena made a special mention about the spreading of dengue and Chronic Kidney Disease in Sri Lanka during his recent state visit to Australia, Ms Bishop expressed happiness that Australia could announce two programmes to assist Dengue prevention.

Foreign Minister Bishop said Australia would immediately provide 475,000 Australian dollars (Rs 58 million) to the World Health Organization to implement immediate dengue prevention, management and eradication programs in Sri Lanka.

She said Australia will provide additional 1 million dollars (Rs 118 million) for a research partnership between Australia’s Monash University and Sri Lanka’s Health Ministry to test the introduction of naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria to eradicate dengue fever from Sri Lanka.

Ms Bishop said the bacteria “prevent transmission of dengue virus between humans” and that it has shown success during the last six years in countries such as Brazil, Columbia, Australia, India, Vietnam and Indonesia where it was piloted.

The bacteria have the ability to block other mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika and Chikungunya as well.

President Sirisena expressed his gratitude to the Government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the people of Australia for providing such assistance at a critical time. He said that several agreements and MoUs were reached during his visit and the two countries should implement them expeditiously to ensure benefits to the people.

Australian Foreign Minister thanked the President, the government and Sri Lanka Navy for excellent cooperation extended to curb human smuggling. The President said that as he discussed during the visit, the two countries should extend this cooperation to curb illegal trafficking of drugs and narcotics.

Ms Bishop said over the years, more than 30,000 Sri Lankans have studied in Australia under Colombo Plan and other programmes and currently, there are 7,500 Sri Lankan students in Australia. The 170,000 strong Sri Lankan origin persons living in Australia is a huge asset to boost bilateral ties, she said.

They also discussed the progress on the implementation of the reconciliation process, which is critical to its long-term security and prosperity.

Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake, Secretary to the President, Austin Fernando, Foreign Secretary Esala Weerakoon and Australian High Commissioner Bryce Hutchesson were also present on this occasion.

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