The daughter of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheik Hasina, Saima Wazed, took over as the regional director of WHO Southeast Asia on Thursday.

At the November 1, 2023, regional committee meeting here, members of WHO Southeast Asia recommended her to head the region. On January 23, 2023, the WHO executive board selected her.

Wazed is the second woman to occupy this position and the first from Bangladesh.

Over 2 billion people live in 11 nations where Wazed will oversee activities in international health.

Wazed outlined her vision and stated that her objectives are to empower vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, enable member states to develop and implement creative local solutions for resilient and equitable health systems and strengthen member states and WHO to address health gaps in the context of contemporary realities and challenges.

During her acceptance speech to the executive board in Geneva, Wazed stated that promoting health equity, which includes creating and implementing targeted interventions for women and children using a structured life-course approach, is her top priority. She also mentioned that leveraging technology to drive innovations across various public health domains is one of her other top priorities. Wazed acknowledged that mental health and well-being have long been neglected.

Her priorities include promoting universal health coverage with an emphasis on bolstering primary healthcare-based health systems; emergency response and pandemic preparedness to encourage nations to have multi-level, whole-of-society preparedness plans linked to the strengthening of health systems; and fostering and enhancing partnerships and collaborations at the regional and multi-sectoral levels to address all health determinants.

In order to inform and improve strategies and decision-making, other priorities include monitoring and progress reporting. These should be done with an emphasis on vulnerable populations, such as indigenous peoples, refugees, and migrant populations displaced by conflict, as well as economic and environmental crises.