Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, who is at the forefront of India’s battle against Chinese epidemic coronavirus, is all set to take charge as the chairman of the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board on May 22.
According to the reports, Dr Harsh Vardhan will succeed Dr Hiroki Nakatani of Japan, who is the current chairman of the 34-member WHO Executive Board. The proposal to appoint India’s nominee to the executive board was agreed by the 194-nation World Health Assembly on Tuesday.
Union Minister Harsh Vardhan was India’s nominee as the WHO’s South-East Asia group, that had unanimously decided last year that India will be elected to the executive board for a three-year term beginning May. Reportedly, the post of the chairman will be held in a rotation for one year among regional groups. It was earlier decided that representative of India will be the Executive Board chairman for the first year starting Friday.
Dr Harsh Vardhan will now be required to chair the Executive Board’s meetings and also will work closely with Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is facing a lot of heat for mismanaging the coronavirus crisis.
Not a full time assignment
The appointment, however, is not a full time assignment but the minister will just be required to chair the Executive Board’s meetings. The Executive Board is composed of 34 individuals technically qualified in the field of health, each one designated by a member state elected to do so by the World Health Assembly. All the members of the executive board are elected for three-year terms.
The Board meets at least twice a year, once in January, and second one May, immediately after the Health Assembly. The main functions of the Executive Board are effect to the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly, to advise it and generally to facilitate its work.
The appointment of Dr Harshvardhan to the WHO comes at a time when the UN-specialised body has been facing a lot of criticism over its failure to limit the Chinese pandemic coronavirus crisis. There are growing calls, including by US President Donald Trump, to investigate how the coronavirus originated in China’s Wuhan city and subsequent failure by Beijing and WHO to communicate to the rest of world regarding the pandemic.