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WHO chief dies

31st May 2006

31052006_Dr_LEE_Jong-wook2Q.jpgDr LEE Jong-wook, Director-General of the World Health Organization, died on the 22nd May, following a short illness. Dr Lee had been director-general since 2003. Dr Lee, a national of the Republic of Korea, was a world leader in public health. 'He tackled every challenge with passion, dedication and professionalism', said the WHO.

Dr Lee worked for 23 years at WHO, in technical, managerial and policy positions, and was the first person from the Republic of Korea to lead a UN agency. 

When Dr Lee Jong-wook took over the leadership of the World Health Organisation he made HIV his number one target. Soon after his appointment in January 2003, he launched the Three by Five programme. The plan was to get 3m people in the poorest parts of the world on to HIV drugs by the end of 2005.  Many argue that the failure to reach this target should not cloud the strong leadership shown by Dr Lee in the last two years. The target was always acknowledged to be very ambitious and in some ways the failings were out of his hands. 

But the two years he spent in office were dominated by the spread of bird flu, or avian influenza, through Asia, Europe and Africa. Under Dr Lee's leadership, the WHO has been co-ordinating the global response to human cases of the H5N1 strain of bird flu and monitoring the threat of an influenza pandemic, in case the virus should mutate into a strain easily spread among people. Under Dr Lee's tenure, the WHO has been quick to warn of the danger posed by the bird flu virus mutating with a human version.

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