Harsh Vardhan to take charge as WHO Executive Board Chairman
Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan will take charge as chairman of the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board on Friday, May 22, reports said. Dr. Vardhan will be succeeding Japan's Dr. Hiroki Nakatani, who is currently the chairman of the 34-member board. On Tuesday, the 194-nation World Health Assembly signed off on a proposal to appoint India's nominee to the post.
An official in the know said the Union Minister for Health and Family Affairs, would be elected on May 22. Evidently, the election is just a procedural formality. "It is not a full-time assignment... But Dr. Harsh Vardhan will be required to chair the executive board's bi-annual meetings," the person told HT. An ENT surgeon, Dr. Vardhan is leading India's coronavirus battle.
The post is held on a rotational basis for one year. As the chairman, he will be tasked with implementing the decisions of the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization. He will also have an opinion in selecting the next WHO chief after Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus exits in May 2021 upon the end of his five-year tenure.
Earlier, the executive board was tasked with selecting the WHO chief and get its choice assessed by the World Health Assembly. The procedure changed before Tedros took the top spot. Now, the board selects candidates and apprises the Assembly. Thereafter, elections happen through a secret ballot. Notably, Tedros is facing flak over the coronavirus pandemic and is accused of being biased towards China.
On Monday, Dr. Vardhan addressed the 73rd World Health Assembly via video conferencing, where he appreciated the efforts of health-care workers and those giving essential services. "I stand here to honor the doctors, the nurses, the paramedics, the scientists, the journalists, the delivery boys, security staff, sanitation staff, and the police personnel — the forgotten roles who are today playing superhumans," he said.
He noted that India took pro-active measures which stopped the virus from wreaking irreparable damage. "We, in India, undertook the COVID-19 challenge with the highest level of political commitment. Our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, personally monitored the situation and ensured a pre-emptive, pro-active, and graded response, leaving no stones unturned to contain the deadly virus from spreading," the minister said.