Cabinet hails Saima on being WHO champion for autism

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DHAKA : The cabinet yesterday adopted a thanksgiving motion congratulating Saima Wazed Hossain, a strong advocate for autism, as she has been designated as “WHO Champion for Autism” in South-East Asia Region.

“At the outset of yesterday’s meeting, the cabinet congratulated Ms Saima Wazed Hossain as World Health Organization (WHO) designated her as WHO Champion for Autism in South-East Asia Region,” Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam told reporters after the cabinet meeting.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina presided over the meeting held at Bangladesh Secretariat here this morning.

On Saturday, WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia, located in New Delhi, made the announcement of Saima Wazed’s designation as “WHO Champion for Autism” in South-East Asia Region ahead of the World Autism Awareness Day on April 2.

Announcing her name, the UN health agency introduced Saima Wazed, daughter of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, as a “strong advocate” for autism.

“(Saima Wazed) Hossain’s dedicated and unprecedented efforts have put autism high on the health agenda in her country Bangladesh, and helped get substantial regional and global attention to autism spectrum disorder and other mental and neurodevelopmental disorders,” WHO Regional Director for Southeast Asia Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said.
She said Hossain’s support as Regional Champion is expected to garner momentum for awareness and action in member countries, as much remains to be done for autism in across the region.

Dr Poonam hoped that Saima Wazed will play a vital role as a regional champion to garner momentum for awareness and action for autism across the region.

As WHO Champion, Saima Wazed will be supporting its “advocacy” with 11 member- countries of the region for inclusion of the issue in national policies and strategies, the UN health agency said.

Among the region’s 11 countries, Bangladesh has made focused interventions for autism, and much of the pioneering work has been initiated by Saima Wazed.

In recognition to her work in advancing the cause of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Saima Wazed, a US-licensed school psychologist, was honored by WHO South-East Asia Regional Office with Excellence in Public Health Award in September 2014.

Saima Wazed, a member of WHO’s global Expert Advisory Panel on Mental Health, has made important contributions to the regional and global efforts on ASD in her various roles and capacities. She launched the South-East Asia Autism Network in July 2011.
Better known by her nickname Putul, Saima Wazed is the chairperson of Shuchona Foundation that works on mental health issues.

She brought the neglected issue to the fore by organising a regional conference in 2011 where regional leaders, including India’s then ruling Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi participated.

As a result of her efforts, the Neurodevelopmental Disability Protection Trust Act 2013 has been passed in Bangladesh. The United Nations adopted several resolutions based on her proposals.

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