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India's Poonam Khetrapal Singh regional director of WHO's southeast Asian region

India's Poonam Khetrapal Singh was elected the regional director of the WHO's southeast Asian region on Thursday.

An Indian has regained the post after a gap of 44 years. The post was last occupied by an Indian in 1968.

The present incumbent Samlee Plianbangchang is from Thailand and has served for 10 years now.

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Khetrapal Singh was elected here during the ongoing meeting of the health ministers of the southeast Asian countries, an official release said. (Read: Health ministers from 11 southeast Asian countries pledge to contain hypertension)

The election of the regional director is an opportunity to strengthen India's commitment to perform its role in health and development with the WHO as a key partner, Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said.

He said: "Poonam Khetrapal Singh is an acknowledged public health specialist and administrator with vast experience and recognition in the UN system. She would be able to contribute to regional as well as global initiatives."

Khetrapal Singh has experience at global level in the WHO as executive director sustainable development and healthy environments and member of the cabinet of the director general in Geneva.

At the national level she has been the advisor, international health, in the health ministry.

The southeast Asian region of the WHO comprises of 11 countries - India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Timor Leste and Korea. (Read: 90% of the world s smokeless tobacco users are from South-East Asia!)

Source: IANS

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