Fadela Chaib

South Korean elected to helm of WHO

South Korean Jong Wook Lee was elected on Tuesday to replace Norway's Gro-Harlem Brundtland at the helm of the World Health Organisation (WHO), pledging to put Africa at the top of the UN health agency's agenda. He has also pledged to decentralise the Geneva-based WHO and turn it into a results-based operation. With 19 years experience at the organisation, most recently as head of the 'Stop TB' (tuberculosis) programme, Lee told reporters that it was a great honour and very humbling to be chosen. He secured 17 votes against 15 votes for his main rival, the Belgian head of the UN's programme against HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Peter Piot, WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told reporters. Clearly Africa should be the priority, and Africa is the priority, especially for HIV/AIDS, Lee told reporters, adding that WHO was committed to achieving the eight development goals adopted by the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 aimed at eradicating hunger, poverty and disease. The 192 member states will now have to approve the choice of director-general at the May 19-28 World Health Assembly, though it has so far never rejected the executive board's nomination, Chaib said. Lee will be the WHO's sixth director general. Previous incumbents since the UN health agency was set up in 1948 have come from Canada, Brazil, Denmark and Japan. (Source: SAPA-AFP, 28 January 2003)