Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh nominated for second term as Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia

Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, elected SEARO Regional Director at the WHO Executive Board meeting, Geneva. Tuesday 21 January 2014. Photo WHO / Violaine Martin

Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh was on Wednesday nominated for a second five-year term as Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia.

She was elected unopposed when 11 member countries of WHO South-East Asia Region met at the ongoing Regional Committee session to elect the next Regional Director.

Congratulating Dr Khetrapal Singh, India’s Minister of Health and Family Welfare J P Nadda, who chaired the Regional Committee meeting, said, “With her contribution to regional as well as global initiatives and outstanding work in placing health central to the agenda of sustainable development, she will surely lead the Region to greater heights.”


“The leadership provided by Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh has seen the WHO South-East Asia Region emerge as the top performer in the organization globally. Her commitment to the public health agenda in the Member States is reflected in the significant achievements in all the flagship priorities of the Region,” he added.

The ongoing first term of Dr Khetrapal Singh’s as the Regional Director WHO South-East Asia began on 1 February 2014. After assuming office, she first identified seven flagship priorities -– achieving universal health coverage; strengthening emergency response capacity; reversing the noncommunicable disease epidemics; finishing off neglected tropical diseases; combatting antimicrobial resistance; preventing maternal, under-5 and neonatal deaths and eliminating measles and controlling rubella.

In 2017, eliminating tuberculosis was added as her eighth flagship.

The region was certified polio-free in 2014, and continues to maintain this status. It has also eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus thus becoming only the second WHO Region to do that.

There are four countries in the region that have eliminated measles. Six countries have controlled rubella.

The maternal mortality rates in the Region have reduced by 69%, making it the steepest decline in any WHO Region during the MDG era to do so.

Countries in the Region have reduced maternal, under-5 and neonatal mortality rates to levels below the SDG targets.

Among the neglected tropical diseases, India has eliminated yaws, Nepal has eliminated trachoma, while Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand have eliminated lymphatic filariasis.

Two countries – Maldives and Sri Lanka – have eliminated malaria.

WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “As the first woman to become Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia Region, 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.”

Through her flagship programmes, he said, Dr Singh had brought a strong focus to delivering results in countries, which is one of the key themes of WHO’s new General Programme of Work and of WHO’s transformation project.

Thanking the Member States for nominating her for the second term, Dr Khetrapal Singh said, “My vision is to consolidate, accelerate and innovate to further strengthen progress in the priority areas and translate vision into action.”

According to the WHO procedures, the WHO Executive Board, which will next meet in Geneva in January 2019, is expected to confirm Dr Khetrapal Singh’s nomination as well as appoint her as the Regional Director.

Dr Khetrapal Singh will start her next five-year term on 1 February 2019.