World Health Organization chief in Israel

Secretary General of WHO is in Israel for first visit ever visit by leader of organization; meets with Peres, health officials

Chan and Peres370 (photo credit: Mark Neiman, GPO)
Chan and Peres370
(photo credit: Mark Neiman, GPO)
Dr. Margaret Chan arrived on Sunday in the first-ever visit by a World Health Organization secretary-general to Israel.
Chan, who has held the position since 2006, is in her second term, which is due to end in June 2017.
She began her visit by meeting President Shimon Peres at his official residence on Sunday morning.
Chan said she had been looking forward to coming since Health Ministry director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu invited her a year ago when they met at a WHO meeting in Geneva.
Chan praised Peres as a “leader for peace,” and she praised Israel’s health system, which has been cited for its successful integration of community health clinics and hospitals.
The president said Israel would be “happy to share the advanced technologies developed in Israel” with other countries and act together for world health by fighting world hunger, promoting agriculture and advancing the production of healthful food.
“I am glad, he said, “there there is an international organization that makes it possible to learn and offer international assistance.”
An expert in infectious diseases, Chan was born in the People’s Republic of China, studied medicine at the University of Western Ontario and then joined the Hong Kong department of health in 1978 and the UN organization in 2003.
Israel has long been part of the European division of the WHO rather than the Eastern Mediterranean division it had previously joined, since the latter consists mostly of Arab countries that are hostile to the Jewish state.
In her time so far as chief of the WHO, she has launched services to prevent the spread of disease and promote better health. She has also introduced initiatives to improve communicable disease surveillance and response, enhance training for public-health professionals and establish better local and international collaboration.
Chan is regarded as a strong and activist secretary-general.
Chan is being accompanied on the trip by Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, and by Dr. Ala Alwan, a native of Iraq.
On Sunday, she visited the Dana Hospital at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center.
Among the patients she met was a 10-year-old Gaza boy suffering from blood cancer, who underwent a bone-marrow transplant 40 days ago.
His mother praised the health authorities and the Dana Hospital medical staff for saving his life.