Namibia has been elected to serve on the Executive Board of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Nchabi Kamwi, joins 33 other individuals designated by member states to offer technical expertise to the board for the next three years.
The health ministry's Deputy Permanent Secretary, Dr Norbert Forster, has been designated an alternate member. Namibia will also serve on the General Committee of the World Health Assembly (WHA). It is the first time since independence 23 years ago that Namibia will serve on the General Committee, which is the executive of the WHA.
The committee comprises 27 countries and is presided over by the President of the WHA, Dr Shigeru Omi, from Japan.
The director general of the WHO and the chairpersons of the two most powerful Committees A and B, are also members of the General Committee.
The term of office for the General Committee is one year. Namibia once served on the Executive Board in 2006. The then PS Dr Kalumbi Shangula was designated by the minister to represent him at the time.
On Friday, 12 members including Namibia were asked by the Health Assembly to designate a person to serve on the board. The other countries are Albania, Andora, Argentina, Brazil, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Egypt, Japan, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Suriname.
Namibia and neighbouring South Africa will represent the WHO African region, which currently consists of 46 countries. The board gives effect to the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly, advises and generally facilitates the work of the World Health Assembly. Kamwi said the election to the board was exciting but he would at the same time take it with caution due to the immense challenges facing the WHO.
He cited the disease burden facing Africa, where HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria remain a challenge, the unmet targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Post 2015 Agenda and how to balance the equation in addressing the stark contrasts between rich and poor nations.
Kamwi said the fact that Namibia has been considered for election to the board two times during his term of office demonstrates the confidence the international community has in the country following its exemplary health indicators. He attributed this to "quality leadership by President Hifikepunye Pohamba, without whose support, I would not have managed".
The 66th World Health Assembly opened on Monday in Geneva, Switzerland and is being attended by officials from 194 Member States to review the activities of the WHO and set new priorities for the future. The Health Assembly has in the past week discussed non-communicable diseases, universal health coverage, women and children's health, as well as the programme budget, administration, reform and management matters of the world health body.
Kamwi is leading a delegation of seven to the WHA, which ends next week.