Fact Sheet N°235
WHO IN PARTNERSHIP:
EXAMPLES OF WORK WITH THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTORS TO FIGHT INFECTIOUS DISEASES
"Since I have been Director-General, WHO has been reaching out to new partners in its effort to conquer disease. We have strengthened ties with other UN agencies and established good collaboration with a handful of private-sector companies. But there is the potential to stretch that net much wider."
Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland
The first-ever partnership between WHO, scientists and vaccine manufacturers is as old as the Organization itself just over 50 years. Launched in 1948, the influenza network has gone from strength to strength, and remains relevant for everyone, worldwide. Apart from establishing every year the composition of the flu vaccine for use in all countries, and ensuring that it is manufactured in time for the next season, the network serves as a global watchdog for surveillance of the disease, to limit its spread, severity and consequences.
In 1988, a major partnership was established to combat onchocerciasis (river blindness) in the 11 countries of West Africa most affected by the disease. Its scope was extended in 1995 to include a total of 30 endemic countries in Africa. Further to the donation by Merck & Co. of ivermectin for large-scale treatment of river blindness, a vast programme was set up to eliminate the disease as a public health problem and to reduce its socioeconomic consequences, in a manner which can be sustained by the countries themselves. In addition to the manufacturers and the countries concerned, partners include FAO, UNDP, the World Bank and numerous NGOs. The programme is coordinated by WHO.
Also in 1988, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched by WHO, with the objective of eradicating the transmission of wild poliovirus by the end of the year 2000. The Initiative, which has already achieved its goal in the western hemisphere, has mobilized many forces from all over the world, such as: UNICEF, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rotary International, the Gates Foundation, the UN Foundation; the governments of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States; private sector partners; and millions of volunteers.
During the 1990s, vaccine and pharmaceuticals manufacturers continued their collaboration with donor agencies and scientists in many countries, under the leadership of WHO, to carry out research aimed at improving the treatment of sleeping sickness, leprosy, malaria and human fascioliasis.
Building on these successes, WHO has multiplied its activities with others in the past 2 years. In 1997, partnerships were created to combat meningitis and rabies; in 1998, the governments of 73 countries endemic for lymphatic filariasis joined forces with the Governments of Japan and the United Kingdom, WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, SmithKline Beecham, Merck & Co Inc, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Carter Center, Placer Dome International and AMRAD to eliminate the disease worldwide.
Major partnerships launched in 1999 target malaria and tuberculosis, and WHO is confident that this well-tested way of leading the daily fight against infectious diseases worldwide is the key to success in the century to come.
For further information, journalists can contact:
WHO Press Spokesperson and Coordinator, Spokesperson's Office,
WHO HQ, Geneva, Switzerland / Tel +41 22 791 4458/2599 / Fax +41 22 791 4858 / e-Mail: email@example.com