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Tuesday, 28 January, 2003, 11:33 GMT
WHO choses new leader
Dr Jong Wook Lee
Dr Jong Wook Lee headed the drive to combat TB
A tuberculosis expert has been chosen to head the World Health Organization.

Dr Jong Wook Lee, from South Korea, narrowly won a ballot to become director general on Tuesday.

He beat Peter Piot, the Belgian head of UNAIDS, by just two votes.

Dr Lee, who will succeed Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, has been leading the UN health agency's Stop TB Program.

He received 17 votes to Mr Piot's 15 among the 32-member WHO executive committee.

The other candidates, Mozambique's Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi; Mexican Health Minister Julio Frenk Mora and former Egyptian Health Minister Ismail Salam, were all eliminated in the first rounds of voting.

Much remains to be done

Dr Jong Wook Lee
All five candidates had been interviewed by WHO's executive board Monday.

The executive board's decision is subject to approval by the full 192 -nation World Health Assembly in May.

In addition to tackling longtime scourges such as poverty and tropical disease, the new WHO chief - who oversees a worldwide staff of 3,500 - will have to deal with issues such as advances in gene therapy.

Dr Lee, 57, gained a reputation as an efficient administrator during 19 years of climbing through the ranks of WHO.

Prior to his work on TB, he headed the WHO Global Programme for Vaccines and Immunizations.

He received solid support from Asian representatives, including North Korea, which holds a seat on the executive board.


In his manifesto, Dr Lee said: "Global pandemics of poverty and AIDS, conflict and disasters, inequitable distribution of critical resources like food and safe drinking water, and environmental degradation pose serious threats to health in the first decade of the 21st century.

"Much has been achieved in recent years.

"The contribution of good health to economic and social development is now accepted.

"Polio is almost eradicated, other vaccine-preventable diseases are in decline, and infant and child mortality continue to fall in many countries.

"Civil society increasingly has a voice in setting local, national and even global health priorities.

"New funding mechanisms are injecting billions of dollars into health research and disease control.

"But much remains to be done. Resources - human and financial - remain grossly inadequate in many countries, and in some settings, health care systems face collapse.

"Communities, particularly poor ones, lack access to the most basic services and drugs.

"Clearly, political commitment must translate into effective action."

Dr Brundtland, a former former Norwegian Prime Minister, will step down in July after five years in the post.

Dr Jong Wook Lee, speaking to East Asia Today
"I hope to bridge the gap between the developing and the developed world."
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