Home Global Health News Health Ministers meet next week on priority issues, to nominate next WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia

Health Ministers meet next week on priority issues, to nominate next WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia

by Public Health Update

New Delhi | October 28, 2023: Health Ministers and senior officials from Member countries are meeting here next week to deliberate on priority health issues and nominate the next World Health Organization Regional Director for South-East Asia. 

The Seventy-sixth Session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia, the annual governing body meeting of WHO at the regional level, will be held from 30 October – 2 November 2023.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and WHO South-East Asia Regional Director Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh will be present.

Accelerating prevention and control of cardiovascular diseases, ending neglected tropical diseases, and regional health security, are among the key issues to be discussed.

A ministerial roundtable will be held on strengthening primary health care as a key element towards achieving universal health coverage.

On Wednesday the Regional Committee will vote to nominate the next WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia. There are two candidates in the fray – Bangladesh nominee Ms Saima Wazed and Nepal nominee Dr Shambhu Prasad Acharya. The nomination will be submitted to the WHO Executive Board which takes place from 22 – 27 January 2024 in Geneva, Switzerland. The newly appointed Regional Director will assume office on 1 February 2024 for a five-year term.

At the Regional Committee, countries will be felicitated for public health achievements, many of them triggered by the focused approach towards the regional flagship priorities.

Home to more than 2 billion people, the Region has made accelerated progress around the Regional Flagship programmes. Since 2014, the Region has eliminated polio and maternal and neonatal tetanus. Four countries – Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste have eliminated measles and rubella, one of the eight flagship priorities.

Prioritizing elimination of neglected tropical diseases, four countries – Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Bangladesh have eliminated lymphatic filariasis. Nepal and Myanmar eliminated trachoma, and India was verified yaws-free.

Sri Lanka and Maldives eliminated malaria. Thailand, Maldives and Sri Lanka eliminated mother-to-child transmission of syphilis and HIV. Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand achieved hepatitis B control.

Focusing on accelerating reduction of maternal, neonatal and under-5 mortality, the Region recorded 68.5 % reduction in maternal mortality between 2000 and 2020, and 45% reduction in under-5 mortality and 39% reduction in neonatal mortality during the period. Five countries – DPR Korea, Indonesia, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand have achieved 2030 SDG targets of reducing under 5 mortality and neonatal mortality.

The Region witnessed fastest decline in tobacco use between 2000 and 2020 with smoking among men declining from 50% to 20%; and among women declining from 8.9% to 1.6%. Countries in the Region have been leading in implementation of graphic warning on tobacco.

Prone to health emergencies, the Region had been investing in strengthening preparedness and response capacities since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that hit multiple countries in the Region and killed over 200,000 people. Strengthening health emergencies capacities has also been a regional flagship since 2014. Countries have been enhancing International Health Regulation (2005) core capacities. The lessons from COVID-19 pandemic are now guiding Regional Strategy Roadmap on Health Security and Health System Resilience for Emergencies 2023-2027.

The Region is accelerating control of cardiovascular diseases with a target to place 100 million people with hypertension and/or diabetes on protocol-based management by 2025.

Committed to accelerating universal health coverage, with the focus on human resources for health and essential medicines, the availability of doctors, nurses and midwives has increased by over 30.6% since 2014. Countries in the Region have been taking several initiatives to make universal health coverage a reality.

For more information on the Seventy-sixth Session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia, please visit – https://www.who.int/southeastasia/about/governance/regional-committee/seventy-sixth-session  

To watch live streaming of the Seventy-sixth Session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia please click on – https://www.youtube.com/user/whosoutheastasia


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