New Delhi: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday took charge as the chairman of the 34-member WHO Executive Board. This comes at a time when the credibility of the World Health Organization (WHO) has plummeted to an all time low and internationally there’s a groundswell for new leadership. Also Read - Coronavirus Cases in India Cross 1.9 Lakh-mark; Delhi Seals Border With UP, Haryana For 1 Week | Key Developments

“I feel deeply honoured to have the trust and faith of all of you. India, and my countrymen, too, feel privileged that this honour has been bestowed upon us. I will work to realise the collective vision of our organization, to build the collective capacity of all our member nations and to build a heroic collective leadership,” added Harsh Vardhan. Also Read - Imran Khan Says it Was 'Mistake' to Enforce Strict Lockdown Even as COVID-19 Cases Cross 72,000-mark

“I am aware I am entering this office at a time of global crisis on account of this pandemic. At a time, when we all understand that there will be many health challenges in the next 2 decades. All these challenges demand a shared response,” news agency ANI quoted the Union Health Minister as saying. Harsh Vardhan, who is at the forefront of India’s battle against COVID-19 pandemic, succeeded Dr Hiroki Nakatani from Japan. Also Read - Coronavirus in Maharashtra: 2361 Cases, 76 Deaths in 24 Hours; Total Tally Crosses 70,000-mark

The chairman’s post is held by rotation for one year among regional groups and it was decided last year by WHO’s South-East Asia group that India’s nominee would be the Executive Board chairman for the first year starting Friday. It is not a full-time assignment and the minister will just be required to chair the Executive Board’s meetings.

The proposal to appoint India’s nominee to the executive board was signed by the 194-nation World Health Assembly on Tuesday.

The Executive Board consists of 34 individuals, technically qualified in the field of health, each one designated by a member-state elected to do so by the World Health Assembly. Member States are elected for three-year terms.

The main functions of the executive board are to give effect to the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly, to advise it and generally to facilitate its work. The board meets at least twice a year and the main meeting is normally in January, with a second shorter meeting in May, immediately after the Health Assembly.

(With inputs from agencies)