New Delhi | February 1, 2024: Ms Saima Wazed today assumed charge as Regional Director for World Health Organization South-East Asia Region.
Ms Wazed is the first from Bangladesh and the second woman to hold this office. She was nominated to lead the Region by Member countries of WHO South-East Asia at the Regional Committee session on 1 November 2023 in New Delhi and appointed by the WHO Executive Board on 23 January 2024 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Ms Saima Wazed will direct international health work in 11 countries with over 2 billion people.
Outlining her vision, the Regional Director said her goal is to strengthen Members States and WHO to address health gaps in the context of current realities and challenges; enable Member States to devise and implement innovative local solutions for equitable and resilient health system; and importantly, empower disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.
At her acceptance speech at the Executive Board in Geneva, Ms Wazed said her topmost priorities include a strong focus on mental health and well-being, a long-neglected area; promoting health equity including through devising and implementing specific interventions for women and children with a structured life-course approach; and harnessing technology for innovations across the different spheres of public health.
Promoting universal health coverage with a focus on strengthening health systems based on a primary health care approach; emergency response and pandemic preparedness to encourage countries have a whole-of-society and multi-level pandemic preparedness planning linked to health system strengthening; fostering and enhancing collaboration and partnerships at the regional and multi-sectoral level to address all determinants of health; and monitoring and progress reporting to inform and improve strategies and improve decision-making with the focus on vulnerable population such as the indigenous peoples, refugees and migrant populations displaced by conflict, economic and environmental crisis, are among the Regional Director’s priorities.
Ms Wazed is also prioritizing health sector resilience to climate and environmental change and a focused approach to the unique needs of the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in health infrastructure planning, to truly leave no one behind.
Prior to taking up this role, Ms Wazed served as advisor to the WHO Director-General on mental health and autism and was a member of WHO’s Expert Advisory Panel on Mental Health. She was Chief Advisor for the National Mental Health Strategic Plan for the Government of Bangladesh, Chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, and Focal Person for disability for the Ministry of Disaster Management & Relief in Bangladesh. She was Commissioner of Chatham House’s Commission for Universal Health, Associate Fellow in the Global Health Programme at Chatham House, Thematic Ambassador for ‘Vulnerability’ of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, and Chairperson of the Shuchona Foundation in Bangladesh.