Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization
10 December l 2007 | Bethesda
Address to the 2007 David E. Barmes Global Health Lecture
Quotation from Dr Margaret Chan's speech, Director-General of the World Health Organization.
"Fourth, another thing we are doing right now, and doing very well, I might add, is alleviating poverty through a frontal attack on the neglected tropical diseases. These ancient debilitating diseases are strongly associated with poverty. They thrive in areas where water supply and sanitation are inadequate, vectors proliferate, housing is substandard, nutrition is poor and populations are illiterate. These diseases sap the productivity and curtail the human potential of at least one billion people who are the poorest of the poor.
Nearly all of these diseases are now supported by drug-donation partnerships with time-bound goals set for eradication or elimination. Last year, WHO introduced a strategy, involving the mass administration of preventive chemotherapy, that tackles several of the most burdensome of these diseases in an integrated manner.
The strategy is good, the momentum is strong, and progress is truly impressive. Moreover, as these diseases are so greatly dreaded by affected populations, strong community motivation is another plus. Just this past year, we have seen more and more evidence that mass preventive chemotherapy can actually break the chains of transmission for some of these diseases. For example, Egypt and China have eliminated lymphatic filariasis, an ancient scourge that currently affects an estimated 120 million people and has left 40 million permanently disabled.
If we manage to free endemic countries and their populations from the burden of these diseases, this, too, will increase adaptive capacity. If we fail, we must anticipate that deteriorating conditions associated with climate change may anchor even more people in abject poverty."