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Assembly Ends Session

Assembly Ends Session

The World Health Assembly, the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO), wrapped up a session in today in Geneva that was held in a sombre atmosphere because it immediately followed the sudden death of WHO chief Dr. Lee Jong-wook.

More than 2200 people from WHO's 192 Member States, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other observers attended the meeting which took place from 22 to 27 May. The 61-year old WHO chief fell ill the weekend before and died after a blood clot was removed from his brain.

Opening the formal proceedings of the Assembly, the Minister of Health of Spain, Elena Salgado, paid tribute to the late leader. Hundreds of delegates signed books of condolence, adding to hundreds of tributes and messages which came in from people around the world.

Despite the loss, the Assembly conducted its business, hearing a keynote address from the Prince of Wales who stressed the importance of an integrated approach to nutrition, medicine, agriculture, the environment and social policies.

A special session of the Executive Board on 23 May appointed Dr Anders Nordström, previously Assistant Director-General for General Management, as Acting Director-General until a new Director-General is appointed and takes office.

In his closing remarks today, Dr. Nordström remembered Dr Lee's determination to see polio eradication completed. "In his memory, and in honour that all of that he stood for, let us commit with absolute dedication to see that goal quickly accomplished."

To support this goal, the Assembly adopted a resolution calling for increased focus on interrupting transmission in polio endemic areas, adherence to rapid response standards in case of importation of poliovirus and technical advice on planning for a post-eradication world.

Other decisions during the session concerned the fight against HIV/AIDS -- another hallmark of Dr. Lee's tenure -- as well as nutrition; control of sexually transmitted diseases; and the training of health workers, among other topics.


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