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El-Halabi lands UN (WHO) top post

Publishing Date : 16 January, 2018


Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) Permanent Secretary Shenaaz El- Halabi was this week clearing her desk at government enclave after having served for 24 years. Her next stop is Geneva, Switzerland for a plum post with the World Health Organisation (WHO) headquarters.

Halabi joins another Motswana woman in the mould of Dr. Matshidiso Moeti who made history by becoming the first woman to serve as a WHO Regional Director for Africa. WeekendPost has it on good authority that Halabi, who talks health issues with zeal, had not applied for the top post but was instead head hunted and selected by a new team of leadership at WHO as the global organization is currently undergoing restructuring to bring in new brooms and expertise.

“Yes, I am actually leaving Botswana government (MoHW) to join United Nations (UN) specifically the World Health Organisation (WHO). I will be starting on the 4th of December in my new job as an Advisor in the office of the WHO Director General that will be at Geneva. The job entails; advising and looking at the global health issues affecting several countries.” Halabi insisted that WHO is where world health policies are being developed, of course, in connotation with member states.

While she will taking up a global post, she is not worried as she has always worked with other countries (in government and even Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries) and others, “but now I will be specifically focusing on global health issues at that level.”

According to Halabi, this is a great opportunity for not only her personal development but for Botswana as well. She highlighted that these are not positions that you take for granted as being in these positions also mean that you will be an ambassador of Botswana as a whole. “It will also put and market Botswana at a higher level,” she maintained to this publication.

“This position is also important to Botswana. It’s also putting the country in the forefront. It’s also to say when you are selected in these positions, probably they look at where you are coming from, and in our case as Botswana when you look at our health indicators, Botswana is doing very well,” she asserted. She added:”So, I think I was also selected not based on who I am only, but also because of my country which is not doing badly in terms of the health indicators and as it’s exemplary as we keep getting accolades.”
She also pointed out that this will help Botswana because she can benchmark on the best practices from other countries.

A savingram from Hazel Reaitsanye who was acting for PS to MoHW staff members states that “this communiqué serves to officially inform you that the permanent Secretary for Ministry of Health and Wellness Ms Shenaaz El-Halabi is retiring from public service on the 30th November 2017.” “We therefore thank her for the valuable contribution she has made to this country during her stay in this ministry and wish her best of luck in her next endeavour,” it states.  

When asked whether she may have been pushed she quickly dismissed the suggestions: “No, no not at all. I am simply retiring at my own volition. It is a voluntary “early” retirement for me as I look forward to join WHO.” In her own words, Halabi stated that she joined the then Ministry of Health (government) in 1993 starting as a Health Research(er) on C3 government salary scale and progressed with other posts.

Holding an MPH from Boston University School of Public Health, she held several senior positions in the ministry including Director of Public Health as well as contributing to delivering several health research, policy development, monitoring and evaluation projects focused strengthening the country’s health system and improving health outcomes. Halabi was appointed Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health on 5th April 2015. Prior to this appointment Ms. El-Halabi was the Deputy Permanent Secretary, Preventative Services.

“I think I have done my share. I have been involved in major initiatives that have been undertaken by this particular Ministry and it’s good to change and I think it’s also good to learn new things and most importantly it’s good to move on.”



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