Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

India to chair ‘WHO Executive Board’


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: WHO

Mains level: Losing credibility of WHO in COVID-19 times

India would now be playing a more prominent role at the World Health Organisation (WHO), with Union Health Minister taking charge as chairman of the WHO Executive Board at its 147th session.  Dr Harsh Vardhan would succeed Dr Hiroki Nakatani of Japan.

Practice question for Mains:

Q. The World Health Organisation (WHO) had “missed the call” on the COVID-19 pandemic. Critically comment with context to the ongoing spat between the US and China.

About WHO

  • The WHO is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health.
  • It is part of the U.N. Sustainable Development Group.
  • The WHO Constitution, which establishes the agency’s governing structure and principles, states its main objective as ensuring “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.”
  • It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, with six semi-autonomous regional offices and 150 field offices worldwide.

The WHO Executive Board

  • The WHO is governed by two decision-making bodies — the World Health Assembly and the Executive Board.
  • The Board is composed of 34 members technically qualified in the field of health, with members being elected for three-year terms.
  • The Health Assembly is the WHO’s decision-making body and consists of 194 Member States.
  • The Board chairman’s post is held by rotation for one year by each of the WHO’s six regional groups: African Region, Region of the Americas, South-East Asia Region, European Region, Eastern Mediterranean Region, and Western Pacific Region.

Functions of the Board

  • The main functions of the Board are to give effect to the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly, to advise it and generally to facilitate its work.
  • The Board and the Assembly create a forum for debate on health issues and for addressing concerns raised by the Member States.
  • Both the Board and the Assembly produce three kinds of documents — Resolutions and Decisions passed by the two bodies, Official Records as published in WHO Official publications, and Documents that are presented “in session” of the two bodies.

Back2Basics: India at the WHO

  • India became a party to the WHO Constitution on 12 January 1948.
  • The first session of the South East Asia Regional Committee was held on October 4-5, 1948 in the office of the Indian Minister of Health, and was inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first PM.
  • The first Regional Director for South-East Asia was an Indian, Dr Chandra Mani, who served between 1948-1968.
  • Currently, the post has again been occupied by an Indian appointee, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, who has been in office since 2014.
  • Since 2019, Dr Soumya Swaminathan has been the WHO’s, Chief Scientist.

Also read:

[Burning Issue] World Health Organization (WHO) And Coronavirus Handling

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