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WHO Chief Warns of Risk to 'Winning Streak' for Public Health

I'm Alex Villarreal with the VOA Special English Health Report, from http://voaspecialenglish.com | http://facebook.com/voalearningenglish The World Health Organization says it has reached a limit in its fight against diseases and disasters. Director-General Margaret Chan says the agency is "overextended" and faces "serious funding shortfalls." Dr. Chan says the WHO is no longer operating "at the level of top performance that is increasingly needed, and expected." She told the agency's Executive Board in January that the level of action should not be governed by the size of a problem. Instead, it should be governed by the extent to which the WHO can have an effect on the problem.Dr. Chan said one of the most exciting developments recently is a new vaccine that could end Africa's deadly meningitis epidemics. She said no large drug company wanted to develop the vaccine because it would not bring big profits. So a group of researchers developed it with major support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She said the vaccine was developed in less than a decade, in record time, and at about one-tenth of the cost usually needed to bring a product to market. She said African countries usually have to wait for years, if not decades, for new medical products. African scientists tested the vaccine. The first countrywide vaccination campaign took place in Burkina Faso in December. This is being followed by similar campaigns in Mali and Niger. But Dr. Chan noted there are twenty-five countries in Africa's so-called meningitis belt. Many do not have enough money for vaccination campaigns.The WHO chief warned that a shortage of money could also limit other progress. She said public health has been on what she called "a winning streak." She pointed out the meningitis vaccine as well as new vaccines for preventing diarrheal disease and pneumonia and a new test for tuberculosis. But she questioned whether there are enough resources to maintain, if not speed up, these gains. She noted the need for treated bed nets for malaria, antiretroviral therapy for AIDS and treatment for tuberculosis. She also said every new generation of babies must be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. And, last year, the WHO launched an aggressive new strategy for polio eradication. The World Health Organization's Executive Board met in Geneva to prepare for the next World Health Assembly in May. For VOA Special English I'm Alex Villarreal. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 19Jan2011)
Length: 03:59

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