Tukuitonga misses out on WHO post

Pacific Community (SPC) director general Dr Colin Tukuitonga. Picture: FT FILE/SUPPLIED

AUCKLAND, 10 OCTOBER 2018 (RNZ PACIFIC/PACNEWS) – The director general of the Pacific Community, Colin Tukuitonga, has failed in his bid for a senior post at the World Health Organisation.

Dr Tukuitonga, a prominent Niuean New Zealander, had campaigned to become the regional director of the WHO for the Western Pacific.

Japan’s candidate, Takeshi Kasai, has been elected to the role by member countries.

Dr Tukuitonga, who had the unanimous backing of Pacific health ministers and New Zealand’s government, came second out of four candidates vying for the role.

In a post on Twitter, Dr Tukuitonga said he gave it his best shot but it was not his day.

Health ministers and other senior officials from 30 countries voted Tuesday during the 69th session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific in Manila, Philippines.

The nominated candidate’s name will be submitted for appointment to the 114th session of the WHO Executive Board to take place in January 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. The new Regional Director will take office on 1 February for a term of five years. Regional Directors may serve up to two terms.

Current Regional Director Dr Shin Young-soo, who has served since 2009, offered best wishes to his successor.

“I warmly congratulate and sincerely wish Dr Kasai the very best as the next Regional Director,” he said. “When he takes the reins in February, he will inherit a strong and robust Organization, and the honour of working with a diverse group of countries joined by a formidable bond of solidarity and an unwavering commitment to delivering better health for all.”

Later this week, the Regional Committee will adopt action plans to address a variety of health issues affecting the Region’s nearly 1.9 billion people. They include:
• fighting neglected tropical diseases;
• strengthening rehabilitation services;
• improving hospital planning and management;
• harnessing e-health for improved service delivery; and
• strengthening legal frameworks for health in the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Regional Committee will also discuss progress on health security, infectious and noncommunicable diseases, and environmental health.

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