Ex-UN officials, public health experts endorse Dr Acharya’s candidacy for WHO SEARO – South Asia Time

Ex-UN officials, public health experts endorse Dr Acharya’s candidacy for WHO SEARO

 August 7, 2023  

Kathmandu – Former UN officials as well as public health experts have endorsed Dr Shambhu Acharya’s nomination for the post of Regional Director, WHO South East Asia Regional Office (SEARO).

“Nepal has proposed a very qualified and competent candidate for the position of Regional Director, WHO SEARO. Dr Acharya brings a wealth of professional experience and leadership skills needed to lead challenges of health for all in South East Asia,” said Kul Chandra Gautam, former UN Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF.

In a letter written to Director General of the WHO, Nepal’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva, confirmed that Nepal had nominated Dr Acharya for the post of Regional Director, WHO SEARO. 11 members of the WHO including Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Maldives, North Korea, Thailand and Timor Leste.

First woman director at the WHO’s South East Asia office, Dr Rita Thapa, said that Nepal made a good decision by nominating Dr Acharya, who is a globally recognized public health expert. “As Nepal is an exemplar country in global health – in child, maternal mortality and fertility reduction including Covid 19, could lead SEARO by example,” she added.

Dr Thapa pioneered the training and mobilization of community-based female health workers to reach out the rural mothers and children of Nepal thereby contributing to reduce maternal and child mortality in the Himalayan nation.

Dr Badri Raj Pandey, who worked in WHO in different capacities, said that Dr Acharya knows inside out of the WHO system. “ (Dr Acharya) raised voice to initiate Covax scheme to help developing countries access to Covid vaccines. “Thanks to his close working relationship with WHO DG Dr Tedros, he played an instrumental role in supplying vaccines to countries in South and South East Asia. He has got very good knowledge of this region,” he added.

On 23rd June 2023, Nepal’s Health Minister Mohan Bahadur Basnet sent letters to his counterparts in all member states of South East Asia Region urging them to support Nepal’s candidacy. If elected, this will be the first time in 75 years that Nepal will be leading the WHO SEAR region.

Time to recover and build back stronger

“I feel honoured to have this opportunity to contest for the post of RD, WHO SEARO and would like to extend my sincere thanks to the Government of Nepal for nominating me,” said Dr Acharya. “We are now at a critical juncture that demands action to regain momentum towards a healthy South-East Asia Region. The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant and lasting impacts on health and well-being within our Region. Now is the time to recover, and to build back stronger.”

“We urgently need coordinated leadership, health systems strengthening, equitable healthcare, scientific advancement, and an ‘informed and prepared’ population. The Region is home to the largest number of recorded disasters, suffers disproportionately from extreme weather events and shoulders the lion’s share of the world’s deaths from drowning,” said Dr Acharya. “If elected, I will support member states to develop robust surveillance and health information systems, including data visualizations, such as heat maps and dashboards, on supply and utilization of health services as well as outbreak detection to enable countries to improve planning and decision making from the community to the national level.”

Dr Guna Raj Lohani, former Executive Director of the Health Insurance Board, Nepal, said that it was a matter of pride for Nepal to nominate a person like Dr Acharya who holds wideranging managerial experience at the senior level of the WHO. “ Out of 11 member countries, Nepal would have to garner support of at least six countries. The role of India would be crucial in this regard. The government of Nepal should take a proactive role to get its candidate elected to the post,” he added. “His election to the post of Regional Director, WHO SEARO, would be instrumental for member countries in the region.”

President of Nepal Public Health Association, Basant Adhikari, said that WHO South East Asia Regional Office was established 75 years ago but Nepal never had an opportunity to lead the office. “Dr Acharya will bring with him wealth of experience working at the global and regional level. He is a competent and most appropriate person for this post,” he added.

Dr Suresh Tiwari, a public health and public financial management professional, said that a person with an international reputation, who has worked at the policy making and implementation level, is selected for the post of Regional Director. “Dr Acharya has already exhibited his competencies by working at the WHO headquarters in the most challenging time like Covid 19 pandemic. He meets all the criteria for this post. Nepal should leave no stone unturned to get him elected to this office,” he added.

Dr Acharya is currently serving as Director at the WHO’s headquarters in Geneva. An experienced public health global leader, he holds in-depth knowledge of global public health issues including in South and South East Asia.

The election to choose a new Regional Director will be held on 31 October 2023 during the Regional Committee meeting that will be held during 30 October – 2 November in New Delhi.