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Health of Africans and Women Top Concerns of Next WHO Chief

Bird flu expert Margaret Chan will take office in January, becoming the first Chinese to head a major UN agency. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

The next chief of the World Health Organization wants the performance of the W.H.O. to be judged by two measures. One is improvements in the health of the people of Africa. The other is improvements in the health of women.

Margaret Chan says the W.H.O. must help all people, but especially those in greatest need. Doctor Chan will begin a five-year term as director-general in January. She will replace Lee Jong-wook of South Korea who died in May.

She will be the first Chinese head of a major United Nations agency. China nominated her, but she says she considers her nationality secondary to the interests of the W.H.O.

The Chinese government has been criticized for slow reporting of public health emergencies. W.H.O. officials say lack of cooperation has hurt the agency's ability to follow the spread of disease. Doctor Chan says she hopes her new job will give her more influence with government officials.

Margaret Chan is a bird flu expert. The fifty-nine-year-old doctor completed her medical training at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. She also studied public health at the National University of Singapore.

She joined the Hong Kong Department of Health in nineteen seventy-eight. She became its director in nineteen ninety-four. Three years later she had to deal with an outbreak of the h-five-n-one virus that included the first known cases in humans.

Doctor Chan ordered the killing of all poultry birds in the city to control the spread of the virus. She won international praise. She was also praised for her handling of the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, SARS, in two thousand three.

She joined the World Health Organization later that year. Most recently she served as assistant director-general for communicable diseases. She was also the representative of the director-general for pandemic influenza.

Earlier this month, a series of votes by a nominating committee narrowed the list of candidates for director-general. On the final ballot, Margaret Chan defeated Mexican Health Minister Julio Frenk twenty-four to ten.

Then the World Health Assembly approved her nomination at a special meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. The assembly represents all one hundred ninety-three member nations in the W.H.O.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jill Moss. For MP3 files and transcripts, go to I'm Steve Ember.