64th World Health Assembly (WHA)
Dr Chan - keynote address
"Never forget the people"
16 May 2011 -- In her opening address to the Sixty-fourth World Health Assembly, Dr Chan reviewed recent challenges and some major successes, including declines in child deaths and in the HIV and TB epidemics, and unprecedented progress in eliminating several ancient diseases of poverty. She also announced that WHO is embarking on the most extensive administrative, managerial, and financial reforms in its 63-year history.
Despite the message of restraint and re-organization, Dr Chan’s main message to health decision-makers was to “Never forget the people. All of our debates and discussions have meaning only when they improve the health of people and relieve their suffering.” In particular, Dr Chan dedicated her speech to memory of mothers and children she had recently met while on tour: a Tanzanian mother whose child had been saved by antimalarial drugs, and women empowered in a microfinance initiative in Bangladesh.
Speaking of the many interventions which have led to lower child and maternal mortality, she noted the importance of The UN Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, launched in September 2010, which has so far attracted $40 billion in commitments over the next five years. She also spoke to a new vision and global immunization vision and strategy, and the launch by Bill Gates of the “Decade of Vaccines”.
Excerpt from Dr Chan's speech
“We know that under-five childhood deaths have reached their lowest level in more than six decades. You will be considering a global immunization vision and strategy, and during this opening session, you will hear more about the Decade of Vaccines. For polio eradication, we have been encouraged by a 95% drop in cases in India and Nigeria. But the job is not yet finished and we must see this through to the end. Thanks to innovative financing mechanisms and other support from the GAVI Alliance, we are now seeing the roll-out of new vaccines against the two biggest killers of young children: diarrhoea and pneumonia. This progress needs to continue. I strongly urge you to support the GAVI replenishment in June.
"Preventing the main killers of young children also calls for better use of the kind of basic interventions promoted by primary health care, like safe water and sanitation. It also calls for more aggressive and strategic implementation of cost-effective interventions, like oral rehydration therapy, antibiotics that can be administered in homes, micronutrient supplements, exclusive breastfeeding, and even something so simple as good hand hygiene.
"After nearly four decades of stagnation, 2010 estimates showed a significant worldwide drop in maternal mortality, with the greatest declines, of around 60%, reported in Eastern Asia and Northern Africa. I believe it is fair to attribute at least some of this success to the recent efforts so many Member States and development partners have made to strengthen health systems. In sub-Saharan Africa, however, maternal mortality remains unacceptably high. The UN Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, launched in September 2010, has so far attracted $40 billion in commitments over the next five years. As one of its many supports to the strategy, WHO produced its first model list of a limited number of essential medicines judged capable of averting the largest number of deaths among mothers and young children."