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Dr Harsh Vardhan elected as Chair of Executive Board of WHO

Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan has been elected as Chairman of the Executive Board of World Health Organization for the year 2020-21. 

The development took place during the 147th session of the Executive Board, in a meeting that was virtually held on Friday.

He has replaced Dr Hiroki Nakatani of Japan.

As per the official statement from the government, Vardhan paid tribute to the lakhs of people who have lost their lives due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. He also requested all the dignitaries present on the occasion to give a standing ovation to all the frontline health workers and other COVID Warriors by saluting their dignity, determination and dedication.

“I feel deeply honoured to have the trust and faith of all of you. India, and all my countrymen, too, feel privileged that this honour has been bestowed upon us”, he stated. Acknowledging that this is a great human tragedy and the next two decades may see many such challenges, he stated that “All these challenges demand a shared response because these are shared threats requiring a shared responsibility to act.”He further added that “while this is the core philosophy of our alliance of member nations that comprise WHO, however, it needs a greater degree of shared idealism of nations.” He said that “The pandemic has made humanity acutely aware of the consequences of ignoring the strengthening and preparedness of our healthcare systems. In such times of global crisis, both risk management and mitigation would require further strengthening of global partnerships to re-energize interest and investment in global public health.”

The minister has also been a member of several committees of WHO including the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) and the Global Technical Consultative Group (TCG) on Polio Eradication. He has also served as an advisor to the world health body.

It may be noted that Dr Harsh Vardhan’s taking over of the post in just a formality as it was decided last year that India’s nominee would be elected to the executive board for a three-year term in May 2020. 

The post is held by rotation for one year among regional groups. Each member of the board is designated by a member state elected to do so by the World Health Assembly. 

All Board members are highly qualified individuals in the field of health. The election of the member states is for three years and the Board meets at least twice a year. It is responsible for finalising the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly.