World Health Assembly meets amid concerns about flu pandemic
28 May 2009 -- The 62nd session of the World Health Assembly took place in Geneva in the middle of concerns about an influenza pandemic.
Transcript of the podcast
Veronica Riemer: You’re listening to the WHO podcast, and my name is Veronica Riemer. The 62nd session of the World Health Assembly took place in Geneva in the middle of concerns about an influenza pandemic. [MUSIC]
Veronica Riemer: The World Health Assembly is the highest policy-making body of WHO. Senior health officials from 193 countries attend this annual meeting to review WHO's work, approve its budget, set new goals and assign new tasks.
In her opening speech, WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan spoke about a world facing multiple crises. She warned of the possibility of the first influenza pandemic of this century.
Dr Margaret Chan: The emergence of the H1N1 virus creates great pressure: pressure on governments, ministries of health, and WHO, on all of us, to make the right decisions and take the right actions at a time of great scientific uncertainty. This virus may have given us a grace period, but we do not know how long this grace period will last. No one can say, no one can say, whether this is just the calm before the storm.
Veronica Riemer: For the first time, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended the World Health Assembly this year. From his earliest days in office, he has been a consistent voice for the health needs of the poorest, the most vulnerable, especially at a time of economic crisis. He has also been a leading advocate for women’s health. In the face of the H1N1 outbreak, he has been a strong voice of support for WHO’s efforts in coordinating the global response.
Ban Ki-moon: Global solidarity must be at the heart of the world's response to this crisis. Solidarity in the face of this particular outbreak must mean that all have access to drugs and vaccines. It means that virus samples and data are shared. It means that self-defeating restrictions on trade and travel are avoided. It means that WHO and vital bodies have the resources they need when they need them. It means that we all act in the interests of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. I pledge my full commitment.
Veronica Riemer: Mrs Sarah Brown delivered the keynote address at the Health Assembly. Mrs Brown, who is the Patron of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, spoke of how important it was to reduce maternal mortality rates if the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were to be reached. She pointed out that this was the one health-related MDG that had made the least progress.
She is a long-term advocate for the improvement of maternal health. Having lost her baby daughter Jennifer after childbirth, Mrs Brown set up the Jennifer Brown Research Fund, which supports research to save newborn lives and solve pregnancy problems.
Sarah Brown: I speak today on maternal mortality only as a mother: on behalf of the half a million mothers who die every year from just about the most avoidable, the most preventable deaths of all. And for every death, 30 more suffer debilitating and painful injury from pregnancy and childbirth.
Veronica Riemer: Sarah Brown has been working to establish a network of national and international champions for maternal health. She urged the health ministers to support the campaign to reduce maternal mortality rate.
Sarah Brown: A health system that works for the mother, works also for early infant care, works for vaccinations, works for infection control, for blood transfusions, for emergency surgery, for every member of the community. There is better understanding now than ever before that if we build for mothers, we build for everyone.
Veronica Riemer: That was Mrs Sarah Brown, Patron of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood. If you would like to learn more about the World Health Assembly, look for the link on the home page of our web site, at www.who.int.
That's all for this episode of the WHO podcast. Thanks for listening. If you have any comments on our podcast or have any suggestions for future health topics do drop us a line. Our email address is email@example.com.
For the World Health Organization, this is Veronica Riemer in Geneva.