Ghulam Nabi Azad, Union Health & Family Welfare Minister on 12 September 2013 announced that the South East Asian Regional Organisation (SEARO) Countries elected India’s candidate, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh as the Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia Region. The present incumbent Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia Region is Samlee Plianbangchang from Thailand and has served at the post for 10 years.
It is important to note that an Indian delegate has regained the post of the Regional Director of SEARO countries after a long gap of 44 years. Earlier, India occupied this post from 1948 – 1968. However since the year 1968, India has not occupied the post of the Regional Director of SEARO.
The SEARO countries took the decision during the ongoing 31st meeting of Ministers of Health of countries of the WHO South-East Asia Region and 66th session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia.
Life History of Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh
• Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh is the acknowledged public health specialist and administrator with vast experience and recognition in public health and the UN system.
• She has experience at global level in WHO as Executive Director Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments and Member of the Cabinet of the Director-General in Geneva.
• She has also been the Executive Director, Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments, WHO/HQ, Geneva, 1998 –2000 and Deputy Regional Director, WHO SEARO 2000 – 2013.
• She has the international experience as Project Officer, World Bank, Resident Mission in India: 1987-1989.
• At the national level, she has served as the Advisor, International Health, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India from 1 March 2013.
• She also remained the Secretary (1994-1995 and 1996-1997) and Joint Secretary (1984-1986), Department of Health & Family Welfare Punjab, India.
About the South East Asian Regional Organisation (SEARO)
• The South East Asian Regional Organisation (SEARO) is one of the six regions of WHO with its HQ in New Delhi, India.
• SEARO has 11 countries which include India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Timor Leste and DPR Korea.
• The Regional Director (RD) is the head of the SEARO and is elected by the members of the SEARO countries. The term of RD is five years and though elections are held, customarily, the RD gets a second term.
• People in the past who have held the post of Regional Director include Dr. C. Mani (1948-1968; India), Dr. V.T.H. Gunaratne (1968-1981; Sri Lanka), Dr. U KoKo (1981-1994; Myanmar) and Dr. Uton Muchtar Rafei (1994-2004; Indonesia).