Bangladesh has put forward Saima Wazed, the daughter of the country’s Prime Minister, as a candidate to lead the World Health Organization’s (WHO) south-east Asia region. This nomination has sparked concerns about the transparency and fairness of the selection process for senior roles within the UN health agency.
Saima Wazed, known for her advocacy work in mental health, is one of two contenders for the position of WHO director for the south-east Asia region, responsible for overseeing a substantial budget allocated for 11 countries with a collective population of 2 billion people. The vote to determine the next regional director is anticipated to occur at the upcoming meeting of the WHO regional committee in late October.
Critics have raised questions about Wazed’s qualifications for the role and have suggested that her nomination may be influenced by nepotism due to her family connections. Wazed has defended her candidacy, citing her advocacy experience as a relevant qualification.
The selection of WHO regional directors holds significant importance as these individuals play pivotal roles in formulating and implementing health policies. Some experts have called for increased transparency in the WHO election process, advocating for public debates rather than closed sessions involving regional member states.
Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister has defended Wazed’s nomination, asserting that she is a well-suited candidate to enhance the health sector within the region. Nonetheless, concerns persist regarding the potential politicization of Bangladesh’s healthcare system.
Wazed’s active participation in diplomatic events and her prominent presence at international gatherings have also drawn attention, prompting questions about the extent to which her political connections may have influenced her nomination.
As the date for the vote approaches, the controversy surrounding Saima Wazed’s nomination underscores the necessity for greater transparency and accountability in the selection of senior positions within international organizations like the WHO.