The World Health Organisation's
34-nation governing board has nominated China's Margaret Chan as its
new chief to guide the global struggle against a
threatened flu pandemic, infectious disease and chronic illness. [AFP]
Margaret Chan, who was yesterday elected the head
of the World Health Organization (WHO), said in Geneva that she would work
"tirelessly" for global health.
"You can be sure that I will work tirelessly and keep my ears open to
all voices," the bird-flu expert told the 34 members of the WHO Executive
Board, which nominated her as the new WHO
Chan's nomination has to be
approved by a two-thirds majority of the decision-making World Health
Assembly, which will meet today with the participation of all 193 WHO
The assembly has never rejected the board's candidate.
Chan, who will become the first Chinese to head a major UN agency, had
long been the front runner in
the race against four other candidates to replace South Korea's Lee
Jong-wook who died suddenly last May three years into his five-year term
In the final round of voting, she easily defeated Mexico's health
minister, Julio Frenk, by a vote of 24-10.
The other candidates in the final shortlist were Shigeru Omi, a Japanese
national who heads WHO's operations in Asia; Spanish Health Minister Elena
Salgado Mendez; and Kazem Behbehani, a senior WHO official from Kuwait.
Chinese Ambassador Sha Zukang, a veteran Geneva-based diplomat, smiled
broadly after the vote and said he was pleased. "Absolutely. One hundred
per cent," he told The Associated Press.
Chan was Hong Kong's health director during the SARS outbreak in 2003.
She joined the WHO later that year, and took over as the agency's
influenza pandemic chief in 2005.
As an assistant director-general, she has led the WHO's efforts to
fight communicable diseases;
and to prepare for a possible pandemic should the bird flu virus mutate
into a strain easily transmitted among humans.
Minister of Health Gao Qiang said in Geneva that Chan's election as the
new WHO chief was a historic moment. He pledged that the nation would
strengthen co-operation with the WHO to improve global public health.
In Hong Kong, former Director of Health Lee Shiu-hung said the election
result indicated that the special administrative region's expertise had
reached international standards and recognized by the global community.
He believed Chan could play a bigger role in strengthening co-operation
between the WHO and China.