Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan took took charge as chairman of the 34-member World Health Organisation (WHO) Executive Board amid the outbreak of novel coronavirus across the world.
WHO’s Executive Board comprises of 34 members elected for three-year terms. The Chair of the Executive Board is elected by its members on being nominated by the Regional Committees of the six WHO Regions, by rotation.
“I feel deeply honored to have the trust and faith of all of you. India, and my countrymen, too, feel privileged that this honor has been bestowed upon us. I will work to realize the collective vision of our organization, to build the collective capacity of all our Member nations and to build a heroic collective leadership," Vardhan said addressing the 147th WHO Executive Board session as its Chair. The session was held virtually.
"I am aware I am entering this office at a time of global crisis on account of this pandemic. At a time, when we all understand that there will be many health challenges in the next 2 decades. All these challenges demand a shared response," Vardhan added.
The chairman's post is held by rotation for one year among regional groups and it was decided last year that India's nominee would be the Executive Board chairman for the first year starting Friday.
Addressing the session and speaking in terms of measures taken in India to combat the spread of Covid-19, Vardhan said, "India faced COVID-19 in a proactive and pre-emptive way, with unmatched scale and determination. Today we have a mortality of 3% only. In a country of 1.35 billion,there are only 0.1 million cases of COVID19. The recovery rate is above 40% and doubling rate is 13 days."
It is not a full time assignment and the minister will just be required to chair the Executive Board's meetings, an official said.
The annual Board meeting is held in January when the members agree upon the agenda for the World Health Assembly and the resolutions to be considered by the Health Assembly. A second shorter meeting takes place in May, as a follow-up to the Health Assembly.
"Dr Harsh Vardhan, who took over from Dr Hiroki Nakatani of Japan, would chair the 148th session of the Executive Board in January 2021. At the Executive Board meeting in May 2021, he will hand over to the next Chair from another WHO Region. However, he will continue to be a member of the Executive Board till 2023," the board said in a statement.
The main functions of the Board are to implement the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly and advise and facilitate its work.
With inputs from agencies