Putul honoured with WHO Excellence Award

Saima Wazed Hossain who spearheads autism campaign in Bangladesh has been awarded with the ‘WHO Excellence Award’ for her contribution in public health in the region.

Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 8 Sept 2014, 07:08 AM
Updated : 8 Sept 2014, 06:37 PM

Better known by her nickname, Putul, she is the daughter of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Health Minister Mohammed Nasim on Monday at a press briefing thanked the WHO for her selection while announcing the award.

He said the WHO Southeast Asia Region (SEARO) director Poonam Khetrapal Singh would hand over the award in a reception on Wednesday on the sidelines of the regional meeting.

Khetrapal Singh launched the award this year for acknowledging the contribution of individuals and institutions in public health.

The UN agency will make formal announcement of the two awardees including Putul on Tuesday.

A US-licenced school psychologist, Putul is the architect of South Asia Autism Network that brought the regional countries together to address the growing challenge of this neuro-development disorder.

It was at her initiative that Bangladesh hosted the first-ever global conference on autism in 2011, drawing leaders like the India’s Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi.

She later also spearheaded a proposal on autism in the WHO on behalf of Bangladesh.

The proposal was accepted this year by the World Health Assembly.

The WHO Director General Margaret Chan considering her “technical ability, experience, global representation in terms of diversity of knowledge, and approaches in the relevant field” made her an expert of her advisory panel on mental health.

She also put forward the idea of “holistic approach” for autism care to what she, in an international forum, said enable “access to medical, educational and employment opportunities throughout their (autistic children) entire life”.

Putul urged the region to develop culturally sensitive tools as she observed the Asian nations were “too dependent on Western modules and therapies” that might not be consistent with Asian cultures.

Autism drew global attention in recent years following a study revealing millions of children worldwide suffering in silence in the absence of adequate understanding of the problem.

These special children are unable to pick up self-care tasks – dressing, self-feeding, toileting – by watching and imitating. They cannot make eye-to-eye contact, and have a single-track thought process.

The problem usually begins to show up in the first three years of life, affecting the normal development of social and communication skills.

No one can say why, but the trend is rising.

But those gifted children show a particular talent like singing, painting, if they get proper environment.

Bangladesh has no data on the number of children suffering from the disorder, but a latest US study finds one in every 68 children to be autistic – a rate 30 percent higher than what it was three years ago.

Bangladesh will host a special session on autism on Sep 11 on the sidelines of the WHO regional meeting that will begin Tuesday.

Putul will chair the session while her mother, Prime Minister, will be the chief guest, the health minister said.