Kathmandu: Prominent figures in Nepal have expressed their support for Dr Shambhu Acharya as the candidate for the position of Regional Director of the World Health Organization’s Southeast Asia Regional Office (SEARO).
During a press conference held in Kathmandu on Sunday, these eminent individuals warmly embraced the Nepali government’s nomination of Dr Acharya for the prestigious role of regional director within WHO’s Southeast Asia regional office.
In their statements at the press conference, the eminent figures emphasized the importance of a transparent selection process to ensure that a highly qualified and deserving candidate is chosen for this crucial position.
Those behind the issuance of the joint press statement, include former minister and ambassador Nilamber Acharya; former assistant secretary general and deputy executive director at UNICEF Kul Chandra Gautam; professor Rita Thapa, who was instrumental in Nepal’s Primary Health Care; Dr Bhagwan Koirala, chairman of the Nepal Medical Council; Dr Naresh Pratap KC, executive director of Family Planning Association; Professor Madhu Dixit, former associate dean at the Institute of Medicine, Tribhuvan University; Dr Sudha Sharma, former health secretary; Bishow Parajuli, former UN resident coordinator; and Dr Badri Pande, a public health expert.
A statement jointly issued by prominent figures highlights the pressing issue of a limited presence of highly qualified Nepali citizens with exceptional international credentials in senior leadership roles within the United Nations system. The statement underscores the current opportunity presented by the vacancy for the Regional Director position within the World Health Organization’s Southeast Asia Regional Office (SEARO), which also has oversight over the South Asia region.
The eminent figures also underscored the vital significance of the Regional Director’s role in safeguarding the future health and well-being of the hundreds of millions residing in our region. It emphasizes the imperative need for capable leadership within the WHO to effectively address and monitor the numerous medical and public health challenges facing the region.
The organization’s 11 member countries—Nepal, India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, DPR Korea, the Maldives, Timor Leste, Indonesia and Thailand—will nominate the organization’s next regional director through a closed-door SERO session set to be held between October 30 and November 2.
Nepal and Bangladesh have fielded candidates for the post. Dr Acharya is the senior-most official of the WHO while another candidate Saima Wazed is the daughter of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
“It is obvious to us that Dr Acharya is the better fit between the two candidates nominated for the position. He possesses a very strong public health background and has extensive leadership experience in tackling global health issues. Dr. Acharya has impeccable credentials with a PhD in public health, specialising in health policy and planning from a globally renowned university; a Masters in Sociology focusing on social policy; and an MBA in public finance and strategic management,” they said.
Dr Acharya knows the public health and medical challenges of our region intimately, having worked for three decades strengthening responses at local, national, regional and global levels, including in Nepal, Bangladesh and India, apart from his responsibilities at WHO headquarters in Geneva. Dr. Acharya managed large-scale World Bank-funded projects in health and population in Bangladesh and played a key role in establishing the Asia-Pacific Health Economics Network to build the health financing capacity of WHO member states, the statement reads.
Working directly with the Director-General WHO, Dr. Acharya has been part of high-level policy and strategy decisions, which have also included interactions with heads of government, ministers, and health professionals all over the Asian continent. Dr Acharya has represented WHO in various UN bodies advocating for universal health coverage within the broader UN development agenda. Most recently, Dr Acharya played a central role in ensuring that WHO was effective in response to the COVID-19 crisis in the most seriously affected countries.