Signing Ceremony: Memorandum of Understanding with the Carlo Urbani Association (Associazione Italiano Carlo Urbani AICU)

16 March 2006

Signora Guiliana Chiorrini,
Signor Tommaso Urbani,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon, and thank you very much for being with us today. It is a special pleasure to welcome back members of the Urbani family, whom I last met back in 2003.

On behalf of the World Health Organization, I would like to express our appreciation to the Carlo Urbani Association, for its generous donation (of 130 000 Euros). The funds will start a two year parasite control programme in 13 provinces of Viet Nam. Nearly 2 million school-age children will benefit from this.

Children heavily infected with these worms are less well nourished, perform less well in school, and have reduced resistance to other infectious diseases. Children whose well-being is no longer eroded in this way regain vital energy and attentiveness. This is a precious gift. Thank you very much.

The link between the Urbani family and Viet Nam goes back a long way. We are just a few days (March 29) short of the third anniversary of the ultimate sacrifice made by Dr Urbani - his death from severe acute respiratory syndrome, better known as SARS. Dr Urbani was the first person to identify this new infection, and alerted the world to the very real danger it posed. The lessons learnt from that work to contain SARS continues to be valuable today, as we prepare for the next pandemic of influenza.

It is not just the people of Viet Nam who have good reason to be grateful for the dedication and skills of Dr Carlo Urbani. His actions touched the world.

We are proud to have had a scientist and doctor of this dedication and calibre on our team. Prior to joining WHO, Dr Urbani was President of the Italian section of Medicins sans frontiers, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 on its behalf. He worked with us on parasitic and vector-borne diseases in countries of the Western Pacific Region as well as in West Africa, bringing a brilliantly practical and insightful approach to all he did.

In the shape of the Association founded in his name, his good work continues. On behalf of the World Health Organization, I thank you again for your generous support.