WHO leaders pay tribute to disaster victims in Asia
20 May 2008
GENEVA – World health leaders who had gathered at the start of the week-long World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting in Geneva held a minute’s silence Monday to remember the thousands of victims of the Myanmar cyclone and the Chinese earthquake.
"We are meeting at a time of tragedy," said the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr Margaret Chan.
"In China, I was especially touched by the images of a collapsed school and hospital, and some of the stunning rescues made in these settings. Every death is tragic, but the deaths of students and patients touch me most especially," she added expressing her "deep condolences" to the millions affected.
In Myanmar, the WHO had 17 surveillance teams currently distributing medical supplies in the disaster-struck delta region, Chan said in her opening address to the assembly, the supreme decision-making body of WHO.
The most pressing health concerns were diarrhoeal disease, dysentery, acute respiratory infections, malaria, and dengue fever. The two events had demonstrated the importance of effective early warning systems and disaster reduction strategies.
The WHO was promoting the construction of hospitals and health facilities that could survive the impact of natural disasters, including high-intensity earthquakes and tropical storms, said Chan.
Earlier both the Chinese and Myanmar representatives told the assembly of their gratitude for the international response to the disasters, which devastated their countries.
During her speech Chan also listed the three most urgent global crises facing humanity: the food crisis in a world where there were already 3.5 million deaths a year from malnutrition, climate change and an influenza pandemic.
"The threat (of a pandemic) has by no means receded and we would be very unwise to let down our guard, or slacken our preparedness measures," said Chan.
All three threatened attempts to achieve the health-related Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty and hunger.
[dpa / Expatica]
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