Director-General's Office

Re-election of Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh as Regional Director for South-East Asia

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Director-General of the World Health Organization

New Delhi, India
5 September 2018

Excellencies, colleagues, friends,

Thank you, I’m delighted to be here. And I’d like to thank you for rearranging the programme so that I could be here for this important moment. I didn’t want to miss it! For two reasons: one is because I wanted to be here; and second, based on the resolutions, one of the instructions you gave is actually to be here, so it’s good to take the instruction in person to Geneva.

Poonam, my dear sister, congratulations on your successful re-election as WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia. I’m not surprised, because I know all Member States in this region have great confidence in you. The voting today shows that: all Member States have confidence in you, and they really respect you.

Since taking office as Director-General 14 months ago, I have admired your dedication, your energy, your wisdom and your vast experience in public health. They have confidence in you because they have seen what I have seen for the last five years.

It’s been an honour to work with you.

Thank you also for your wise advice and for the key role you play in WHO’s Global Policy Group, the GPG. Your insights have been invaluable as we have worked together to build the WHO of the future.

Your election for a second-term is well-deserved. You enjoy, as I said earlier, not only the confidence, but trust of all the Member States, and for good reason.

As the first woman to become Regional Director, you have provided dynamic leadership in a region that accounts for one quarter of the world’s population, but a disproportionate burden of its diseases.

You have brought a strong focus to delivering results in countries, which is one of the key themes of the General Programme of Work and of WHO’s transformation project. I should admit, this region actually started the results-oriented approach at country level before even headquarters. We’re now saying we have to do the same at all levels, starting from headquarters.

I’m a strong believer in the need for clear vision and focus. That’s what the GPW is all about. And that’s exactly what the eight regional flagships have delivered.

The results speak for themselves.

Bhutan, Maldives, DPR Korea and Timor-Leste have all eliminated measles, while India and Indonesia are completing mass vaccination campaigns. Measles mortality dropped by 73% between 2000 and 2016.

All Member States now have multisectoral NCD action plans in place, nine of which have been endorsed at the highest levels of government.

Maternal mortality declined by 69% between 1990 and 2015 – the most of any WHO region, and under-5 mortality dropped by 67%, meeting the MDG goal.

On UHC, you have begun a regional initiative to transform the health workforce, and the Ministerial Declaration on access to medicines endorsed yesterday is an important step forward in tackling a major driver of out-of-pocket spending.

Nine of 11 Member States now have national action plans on antimicrobial resistance, and the other two are on the way.

Nepal has eliminated trachoma, India has eliminated yaws, Bangladesh has reached the elimination threshold for visceral leishmaniasis and Indonesia has transitioned to an elimination programme for schistosomiasis.

And finally, although major challenges remain on TB, you have demonstrated strong commitment to urgent action by adding TB to the list of regional flagships.

Each of these flagships is reflected in the GPW. We’re saying exactly the same thing. As WHO transforms globally, I am confident that together we will produce even better results for this region, and for the world.

I wish you every success in your second term, my dear sister Poonam. You can count on my support.

I thank you.