Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Margaret Chan, said today that History will judge whether the new emergencies programme has given the world a stronger level of protection.
Dr Chan said, while addressing the Seventieth World Health Assembly, that the political and economic outlook is much less optimistic than it was when she took office in 2007.
“That was before the 2008 financial crisis changed the economic outlook from prosperity to austerity almost overnight, with effects on economies and health budgets that are still being felt.
“That was before acts of international terrorism and violent extremism became commonplace, before the word “mega-disaster” entered the humanitarian vocabulary, before seemingly endless armed conflicts caused the largest population displacements and flights of refugees seen since the end of World War II,” she said.
Dr. Chan also said “The world was less fortunate with Zika, an outbreak that WHO continues to monitor closely. The world was not at all fortunate with the 2014 Ebola outbreak that utterly devastated the populations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. This was West Africa’s first experience with Ebola, and the outbreak took everyone, including WHO, by surprise.
“WHO was too slow to recognize that the virus, during its first appearance in West Africa, would behave very differently than during past outbreaks in central Africa, where the virus was rare but familiar and containment measures were well-rehearsed.”
“I saw it as my duty, as your Director-General, to do everything possible to ensure that a tragedy on this scale will not happen again,” she said.
She informed Assembly that scientific evidence is the bedrock of policy, stating “Protect it. No one knows whether evidence will retain its persuasive power in what many now describe as a post-truth world.
“Vaccine refusals are at least one reason why the tremendous potential of vaccines is not yet fully realized. The current measles outbreaks in Europe and North America should never have happened.”