The United Nations has appointed Indo-Canadian Afshan Khan as the new Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Office of Emergency Programmes. In this new role, Khan will lead the organization’s efforts to end malnutrition in children around the world.
Khan, who was born in India and raised in Canada, brings extensive experience in humanitarian work to her new position. She has spent more than 30 years working in the field of humanitarian aid, including serving as UNICEF’s Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia and as Chief of Emergency Operations for the World Food Programme.
Khan’s appointment comes at a critical time, as the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the global malnutrition crisis. According to UNICEF, an estimated 149 million children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition, which can have lifelong consequences for their physical and mental development.
In her new role, Khan will work to strengthen UNICEF’s emergency response capabilities and improve its ability to respond to malnutrition crises. She will also focus on increasing access to nutritious food, promoting breastfeeding, and expanding access to clean water and sanitation.
In a statement following her appointment, Khan emphasized the importance of addressing malnutrition as a key priority in the fight against poverty and inequality. Malnutrition is a symptom of deeper systemic problems of poverty, inequality, and injustice,” she said. “To end malnutrition, we must address the root causes.”
Khan’s appointment has been welcomed by leaders in the global health and humanitarian community. Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, praised Khan as “a proven leader with a wealth of experience in emergency response and humanitarian affairs.”
The appointment of Khan also highlights the important role of diversity in leadership positions. As an Indo-Canadian woman, Khan brings a unique perspective to her new role and will be able to draw on her personal and professional experiences to address the challenges facing children in crisis situations.
Khan’s appointment is also a reminder of the importance of investing in global health and nutrition initiatives. Malnutrition not only affects the physical and mental development of children but also has broader economic and social implications. By investing in efforts to end malnutrition, we can help break the cycle of poverty and promote sustainable development.