New WHO Director-General
Margaret Chan is welcomed by outgoing WHO Acting Director-General Anders
Nordstroem on her first day in office at the World Health Organization's
headquarters in Geneva yesterday. [Reuters]
GENEVA: Dr Margaret Chan took charge of the World Health Organization
yesterday, the most prominent UN post ever held by a Chinese national, saying
she wanted to be judged on how well the agency tackles the problems of women and
"I want my leadership to be judged by the impact of our work on the health of
two populations: women and the people of Africa," Chan said.
particularly vulnerable to health problems because of the risks they face during
pregnancy and childbirth and their low status in some countries, Chan said in a
speech to WHO staff.
Africa was not only being ravaged by three big killers AIDS, malaria and
tuberculosis but chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease were taking
a rising toll.
Chan told WHO staff that she did not foresee a major restructuring of the
agency, but that she would be looking for ways to improve cooperation among
different parts of the organization.
"I will stick with my promise: Reform, yes. Upheaval, no," she said.
Chan defeated a field of 12 other candidates to become director-general in a
vote by WHO member countries in November to fill the post vacated by the death
in May of Dr Lee Jong-wook. Her term will run until June 30, 2012.
Chan gained international attention in 1997 when she led Hong Kong's public
health department in confronting the world's first known human outbreak of the
H5N1 bird flu virus. Her swift reaction, ordering the slaughter of the special
administrative region's entire poultry population about 1.5 million birds in
just three days was applauded and is said to have prevented a major human health
Starting in 2005, she spearheaded WHO's efforts to coordinate a global
response to prepared for a possible flu pandemic should the bird flu virus
mutate into a strain easily transmitted among humans.
Chan, a 59-year-old Hong Kong native, takes over an agency that has become
increasingly important as the world steps up efforts to battle polio,
tuberculosis, malaria, AIDS and emerging diseases.
The agency has a two-year budget of $3.3 billion.
(China Daily 01/05/2007 page1)