Pakistan’s former health minister Dr Sania Nishtar is among six candidates nominated for the post of World Health Organisation chief.
Dr Nishtar is one of only two women in the running for the post. In addition to being the founder and president of Heartfile, a health think tank, and co-chair of the WHO’s commission on ending childhood obesity, Nishtar was formerly a federal minister. She is the only candidate with a website devoted exclusively to her bid.
Six candidates are in the running for the post. Other than Nishtar, the candidates nominated for the position are Dr Philippe Douste-Blazy of France, a former health and foreign minister, Italy’s Dr Flavia Bustreo – currently the WHO’s assistant director general for family, Hungary’s former minister of health, the UK’s Dr David Nabarro, a sustainable development adviser to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, Dr Miklós Szócska Ethiopia’s foreign minister – and former health minister – Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu.
“The next DG has a narrow window in which to change the narrative about the WHO,” said Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute and co-author of a report calling for urgent reform within the agency. “It has become an organisation that, when faced with real challenges, cannot perform.”
“The world needs an effective WHO – there’s no way around that,” he added. “There are things only the WHO can do. Instead of thinking about creating entities that will fill in the gaps, it is in our interest to make sure the WHO can fill those gaps itself.”
The director general is the WHO’s chief technical and administrative officer, and oversees the organisation’s international health work. The successful candidate will take office in July 2017 and replace the incumbent Dr Margaret Chan, who has held the position since 2006.