GENEVA, Nov 8 (Reuters) - China's Margaret Chan, the
World Health Organisation's (WHO) top official on bird flu, was nominated on
Wednesday as the new chief of the United Nations agency, diplomats said.
The World Health Organisation's 34-nation governing
board has nominated China's Margaret Chan as its new chief to guide the
global struggle against a threatened flu pandemic, infectious disease and
chronic illness. [AFP]
Chan, 59, will become the first Chinese to head a major U.N. agency. A former
director of Hong Kong's department of health, she has devoted her professional
life to public health.
Chan had been the front-runner to replace South Korea's Lee Jong-wook who
died suddenly in May from a blood clot in the brain, three years into his
five-year term as director-general.
The 193-state WHO's top decision-taking body, the World Health Assembly, will
be asked to approve the nomination by its board at a special session on
Thursday. The assembly has never rejected the board's candidate.
The diminutive medical doctor stepped aside from her job as the WHO's top
official on bird flu and pandemic influenza to campaign hard for
The profile of the WHO, which has a two-year budget of $3.3 billion, has
increased dramatically with the emergence of global health emergencies such as
AIDS and threats from new diseases such as SARS, a killer respiratory illness,
and bird flu.
Supporters had argued Chan's election could strengthen relations between the
WHO and China.
She beat off challenges by Mexico's Health Minister Julio Frenk, Japan's
Shigeru Omi, a senior WHO official, Spain's Health Minister Elena Salgado and
another top WHO official, Kuwait's Kazem Behbehani, in final voting on
In the final ballot, it was down to Chan and Frenk, according to diplomats.
"I am very happy," said Sha Zukang, China's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva.
Besides helping prepare for a possible bird flu pandemic, Chan, who can serve
two five-year terms, must confront tricky political issues.
These include how to balance better access to medicines for poor countries
with the drugs' patent protection that big pharmaceutical companies demand.
During nine years as head of health in Hong Kong, she won praise for helping
fight the world's first outbreak of bird flu (1997), deciding to cull about 1.5