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Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health, Science & Technology and Earth Sciences and Vice President of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has taken over the charge as Chairman of the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board on 22 May 2020. Dr Vardhan has been leading the fight against COVID-19 in India.
The WHO Executive Board comprises 34 members elected for a term of three years. The chair of the board is elected by its members on being nominated by the Regional Committees of the six WHO Regions on a rotation basis. The board aims to implement the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly and advises and facilitates its work.
Addressing the 147th WHO Executive Board session virtually as its Chair, Dr Vardhan said, “I feel deeply honoured to have the trust and faith of all of you. India, and my countrymen, too, feel privileged that this honour has been bestowed upon us. I will work to realise the collective vision of our organisation, to build the collective capacity of all our member nations and to build a heroic collective leadership.”
Dr Harsh Vardhan further said that WHO is already providing leadership to the entire world in the sphere of public health, engaging with partners for joint actions, shaping the research agenda and stimulating the dissemination of valuable knowledge. The need is to catalyze further change. Health is central to enhancing human capabilities. Protecting the health of those without wealth should be the core philosophy of our close alliance at the WHO, he added.
Regional Director for WHO South-east Asia Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh congratulated him and said, “Dr Harsh Vardhan has assumed this post at a very challenging time. I wish him all the best in steering the Executive Board as it addresses this defining pandemic and other public health issues. Dr Harsh Vardhan has a rich experience in public health. He is the pioneer of India’s successful pulse polio programme and has been in the forefront in the fight against tobacco and many other issues. The world can now gain from his expertise and experience.”.
Dr Harsh Vardhan has also been a member of several prestigious committees of WHO like Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) and the Global Technical Consultative Group (TCG) on Polio Eradication. Besides, he has also served as an Advisor to the WHO.