In a high-stakes electoral showdown, a fierce diplomatic rivalry has emerged as Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s daughter, Saima Wazed, and Nepal’s distinguished public health specialist, Shambhu Prasad Acharya, vie for the coveted position of World Health Organization’s Regional Director for the Southeast Asia Regional Office (SEARO). This critical election is taking place today during the 76th session of the Regional Committee of WHO South-East Asia Region in New Delhi.
Saima Wazed, a renowned school psychologist with extensive experience in mental health and autism, currently serves as an advisor to the WHO Chief. On the other hand, Shambhu Prasad Acharya boasts an impressive career spanning over three decades with the WHO and currently holds the position of Director, Country Strategy and Support at the WHO’s Geneva, Switzerland office since 2013.
The WHO South-East Asia Region encompasses 11 member countries, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, North Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Timor-Leste. This region is of paramount importance as it is home to over a quarter of the world’s population. In this hotly contested race, the winning candidate will require at least six votes to secure the position of the head of the WHO South-East Asia Regional Office, headquartered in New Delhi.
The tension is palpable as the governments of Bangladesh and Nepal have thrown their full weight behind their respective candidates, setting the stage for a gripping diplomatic battle that will undoubtedly shape the future of public health in the Southeast Asia Region. As the voting process unfolds, the world watches with bated breath to see who will emerge victorious and assume the critical role of leading the WHO’s efforts in this vital region.