Tongan health minister nominated as next WHO Western Pacific chief

Tonga's Minister of Health Saia Piukala

Tonga’s Minister of Health Saia Piukala Tuesday was nominated as the next World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for the Western Pacific.

The nomination took place during the 74th session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific in Manila.

In a statement, the WHO said Piukala, a surgeon with nearly 30 years of experience as a public health leader, “is a champion of multisectoral collaboration to address health challenges, such as climate change, noncommunicable diseases, and tobacco control, among others.”

Since becoming Tonga’s minister of health, Piukala has been very involved in the work of WHO, advocating and championing initiatives on noncommunicable diseases, safe surgery, climate change and health, and disaster preparedness and response, the statement said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who attended the regional committee meeting in Manila this week, expressed his support for Piukala, saying that “I assure you of my support and that of my colleagues in Geneva. You have my full support, my full confidence and my best wishes.”

Piukala’s name will be submitted for appointment to the 154th session of the WHO Executive Board, scheduled for Jan. 22-27, 2024, in Geneva, Switzerland. He will take office as the regional director on Feb. 1, 2024, for an initial term of five years.

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