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Dhaka Tribune

WHO Regional Director Nomination: Top health experts praise Saima Wazed’s leadership abilities

  • Exceptional candidate for regional director
  • Her career showcases deep knowledge of public health
Update : 25 Oct 2023, 06:23 PM

Leading health experts and physicians of the country have lauded Saima Wazed’s leadership abilities after she was nominated for the post of World Health Organization’s (WHO) South-East Asia regional director.

In a statement released recently, they noted that South-East Asia is home to more than a quarter of the population of the world. “The public health challenges faced by the eleven member states of this region vary, not just from one country to another but also within the countries themselves. Therefore, the regional director (RD) for the WHO South-East Asia Region is in a significant and critical position for the betterment of the public health outcomes of the region,” it reads.

In this context, it is important that Bangladesh has nominated Saima Wazed for the position of WHO South-East Asia Regional Director, they said.

The statement further reads: “Bangladesh has been an outstanding example of public health success in the region, and among developing countries across the world. This has happened because of the painstaking work and innovative approaches adopted by the Bangladesh government over many years.

“Wazed’s long and distinguished career shows us someone who understands many different aspects of public health – as both a practitioner and a policy specialist. At the start of her career, she trained as a school psychologist, and after obtaining her license she worked in underprivileged communities. In the years since, she has expanded her focus to encompass mental health, neurodevelopmental disorders and people with disabilities as both an advocate for these issues as well as a technical expert.”

The leading health experts observed that because of her work, social stigmas in Bangladesh around mental health have for the first time been confronted and challenged.

They acknowledged Saima Wazed’s efforts that have led to the adoption of the Neurodevelopmental Disability Protection Trust Act, 2013, Protection of the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 2013, National Strategic Plan for Neuro-Developmental Disorders 2016-2021, Mental Health Act, 2018, National Mental Health Policy 2022, and National Mental Health Strategic Plan, 2020-2025.

"She also displayed her ability to bring together diverse stakeholders. It speaks to the leadership abilities that she has been able to successfully work with a spectrum of partners, including DFID, WHO, WFP, UNICEF, IPNA (BSMMU), and NIMH – individually or as part of a team – to develop a policy framework and strategic multi-sectoral action plans," the statement reads.

Saima Wazed is the chairperson of Bangladesh’s National Advisory Committee on Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Autism, an advisor to WHO’s Director General on Mental Health and Autism, and a member of the WHO’s Expert Advisory Panel on Mental Health.

In the role of the regional director of the South-East Region of WHO, Bangladesh’s candidate Saima Wazed will be able to harness the value of fostering collaboration and partnerships between various stakeholders in the context of cross-sub-regional realities and practical challenges, they hoped.

“It is critically important that a public health leader understands cultural sensitivities, knows how to create public awareness, mobilize resources, mainstream a particular public health concern through generating debates and empower communities in decision-making through consistent advocacy. Wazed is blessed with a blend of all these qualities.

“We wholeheartedly endorse these words and further point out that WHO SEARO awarded her for Excellence in Public Health in 2014. In summary, we note her potent blend of practitioner and policy maker, advocate and leader, political and personal acumen, and years of proven tangible outcomes. She is without any doubt an exceptional candidate for regional director, and we have no doubt she will excel in the role,” the statement reads.

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