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WHO appoints Saima Hossain as South-East Asia goodwill ambassador for autism

  • Published at 03:45 pm July 6th, 2017
  • Last updated at 01:36 am July 7th, 2017
WHO appoints Saima Hossain as South-East Asia goodwill ambassador for autism
Saima Wazed Hossain has been appointed as the WHO goodwill ambassador for autism in South-East Asia, says a press release published on Thursday. Regional director for WHO South-East Asia, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, lauded Saima's “passionate and persistent efforts for addressing autism”. He also acknowledged her “significant contributions towards creating awareness and generating action to address and elevate sufferings of people affected by autism” and appointed her as the goodwill ambassador for two years. According to the press release, Saima has expedited the “Thimphu Declaration” on autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders at an international conference in Bhutan in April. This declaration is based on “a whole-of–society and whole-of-government” approach which emphasises on “strengthening national capacities in health, education and social care sectors”. Saima's role as the goodwill ambassador entails promoting the Thimphu declaration which focuses on “integrating the needs of autism affected people, into national health and socioeconomic development plans”. Saima has made other important contributions which include “development of a collaborative framework for implementation of WHO Regional Strategy on autism spectrum disorder, and national action plans for post-disaster mental health and psycho-social support”. “Autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders are life-long disabilities that affect brain functioning, and when left without proper support can cause significant impairment in exercising of an individual’s human rights and fundamental freedoms,” says the press release. According to WHO, autism prevalence rates are estimated to be 160 cases in a population of 10 000. Children with autism, from low-and middle-income countries, do not receive the necessary medical attention and care. They get stigmatised and face social discrimination. “With Ms Hossain’s efforts and support, WHO aims to put autism high on the health agenda of countries in the Region, to address this public health challenge,” Dr Poonam added. Saima has previously received the Excellence in Public Health Award in September 2014 by the WHO South-East Asia regional office. She also became the WHO regional champion for autism in May 2016.