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Candidate for WHO head vows focus on 2 Koreas

Apr 04,2017
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David Nabarro
David Nabarro, one of the three candidates to become the next director general of the World Health Organization, promised to do more to bridge the two Koreas by means of international health assistance should he win the upcoming election in May.

“I can assure you that if I am elected as the director general of the WHO, one of my early requests will be to engage with the government of North Korea, to understand their challenges, and to help reduce their sufferings, particularly ill health and malnutrition among children,” Nabarro told a group of local reporters at the British Embassy in central Seoul on Monday. “It is the responsibility of the international system to help make a bridge between the two countries on this peninsula.”

Nabarro said the North Korea program will focus on children.

“A child’s ability to learn in school and to contribute productively to economic development depends enormously on what happens between the period of conception and second birthday and I have always wanted to be sure that countries focus on that early period,” he said. “We sometimes describe it as the 1,000 vital days when the brain and the body are being programmed and if it’s done well then the child has a good start to life. So I am really keen to seek emphasis in early child development in all countries but I know it’s really important in North Korea.”

Nabarro, a candidate for the head of the WHO nominated by the U.K. government, became a qualified doctor in 1974 and since then has practiced as a doctor or as an international development worker in more than 50 countries, including Iraq, Nepal, India, Brazil, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Ukraine.

The candidate stressed the need for the WHO to transform its response system to outbreaks and health emergencies. Nabarro was the special envoy of the United Nations secretary general on Ebola from August 2014 to December 2015, and prior to that the UN system senior coordinator for avian and human influenza from 2005 to 2014.

Korea has suffered periodic outbreaks of avian influenza for more than a decade.

“We need to be ensuring strong cooperation between the veterinary medicine specialist and human health specialists to minimize the risk and to maximize surveillance and response in the bird population and I will work with the government of Korea on this,” Nabarro said. “The cooperation is already good but I would like to make it even better.”

Nabarro and the other two candidates, Ethiopia’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Pakistan’s Sania Nishtar, will be campaigning throughout the world until the final voting takes place in Geneva on May 23. Each member state of the WHO will vote for the new director general to replace Margaret Chan, who has been leading the organization since 2006.

Nabarro met with Minister of Health and Welfare Chung Chin-youb earlier on Monday.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]