Saima Wazed, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s daughter, nominated Regional Director of WHO

Saima Wazed defeats Shambu Acharya, a public health veteran from Nepal, in a vote held here during the 76th session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia Region. 

November 01, 2023 03:20 pm | Updated November 02, 2023 08:17 am IST - NEW DELHI

Saima Wazed and Dr. Shambhu Acharya seen together at a meet in New Delhi.

Saima Wazed and Dr. Shambhu Acharya seen together at a meet in New Delhi. | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s daughter, Saima Wazed, was on Wednesday nominated as the next Regional Director for the World Health Organization’s South-East Asia region.

She defeated Shambu Acharya, a public health veteran from Nepal, in a vote held here during the 76th session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia Region. 

Bangladesh, Bhutan, DPR (North) Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Timor-Leste — 10 of the 11 member countries — took part in the vote. Myanmar did not send a delegation to the meeting. 

The nomination will be submitted to the WHO Executive Board during its 154th session, which is scheduled to take place on January 22-27 in Geneva, Switzerland, the WHO regional office said in an official communication.

The newly appointed Regional Director will take over from the present incumbent, Poonam Khetrapal Singh, on February 1.

Ms. Wazed, in a statement, said the WHO South-East Asia Region was home to over two billion people — more than a quarter of the people of the planet — and that the region represented a diversity with often differences existing within the boundaries of single member states themselves. She said that her priority areas of work would include universal health coverage (UHC), emergency response and pandemic preparedness, collaboration and partnerships (regional and multi-sectoral), and mental health.

“We will work to promote community-based mental healthcare services in member countries, encourage prevention and promotion in mental health while expanding efforts to include mental health in the public health agenda,” Ms. Wazed said.

Reacting to the result, Swarup Sarkar, former Director of WHO SEARO, said the election demonstrated the collective resolve of member states to move forward with the vision set out by Ms. Wazed.

“As a former WHO staff, I would look forward to a stronger, responsive, and responsible WHO working at the global, regional and country levels, on the principle of one WHO and more participation of civil society at all stages of WHO work,” he said.

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