WHO Executive Board appoints Regional Directors for Eastern Mediterranean, South-East Asia, and Western Pacific regions

Three new Regional Directors were appointed today by WHO’s Executive Board to lead the Organization in the Eastern Mediterranean, South-East Asia, and Western Pacific Regions. Regional Directors are nominated by Regional Committees and appointed by the Executive Board.

Dr Hanan Hassan Balkhy will serve as Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Ms Saima Wazed will serve as Regional Director for South-East Asia, and Dr Saia Ma’u Piukala will serve as Regional Director for the Western Pacific, all starting on 1 February 2024. Each Regional Director serves for a five-year term.

“I congratulate our three new Regional Directors on their appointment. I wish them much luck in their new roles and look forward to working with them to advance our mission to achieve Health for All.” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

From the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office in Cairo, Egypt, Dr Hanan Balkhy will direct international health work in 22 countries and territories with 745 million people. A graduate of King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Dr Balkhy completed her paediatric residency training at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, USA, and completed a paediatric infectious diseases fellowship with the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and Case Western Reserve University, also in the USA. She has served as Assistant Director-General for Antimicrobial Resistance at WHO headquarters since 2019. Over 20 years of her career, she has led many public health initiatives in her country, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Previously, she was Executive Director for Infection Prevention and Control at the Saudi Arabian Ministry of National Guard. She led the Gulf Cooperation Council Centre for Infection Control and the WHO Collaborating Centre on Infection Prevention and Control and Antimicrobial Resistance.

From the South-East Asia Regional Office in New Delhi, India, Ms Saima Wazed will direct international health work in 11 countries with over 2 billion people. She holds a bachelor degree and a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Barry University in Florida, USA, and is a candidate for a doctorate in organizational leadership from Barry University. She has served as Advisor to the Director-General of WHO on Mental Health and Autism. Previously, she was Chief Advisor on the National Mental Health Strategic Plan for the Government of Bangladesh, and Chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. She was also Associate Fellow in the Global Health Programme at Chatham House, and Chairperson of the Shuchona Foundation in Bangladesh.

From the Western Pacific Regional Office in Manila, Philippines, Dr Saia Ma’u Piukala will direct international health work across 37 countries and areas with almost 1.9 billion people. A politician, public health leader and surgeon with nearly 30 years of experience, Dr Piukala served as Minister of Health of Tonga. He trained in medicine and surgery at the Fiji School of Medicine and was Medical Superintendent at Tonga’s main referral hospital. He also served in the Legislative Assembly of Tonga, and championed initiatives on noncommunicable diseases, safe surgery, climate change and health, and disaster preparedness and response. He served as a designated member of Tonga on the WHO’s Executive Board.

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