Margaret Chan (in response to reporters questions about starvation in North Korea)
…one thing I recognized is that walking is quite well observed in that country, and I suggest that is why I didn’t see many obese people.
… a currency revaluation plan in November 2009 caused spiralling inflation that in turn aggravated food shortages and sparked social unrest. In the first few months after the plan went into effect, the North Korean government exacerbated the situation by restricting the use of foreign currency, closing down food markets, and prohibiting small-plot farming. Many people died of starvation and many others lost their entire savings.
UNICEF reports that almost half of North Korea’s children are so malnourished that they grow up stunted, both physically and mentally. The problem is irreversible and so prevalent that the military had to lower its height requirement for new troops, to meet its recruiting goals. The average height for a 17-year-old boy now is 5 feet.
How did someone like Margaret Chan, who has record of putting the interests of the Chinese government ahead of public health (as documented in a previous blog) become Director-General of the WHO?
In part, with the strong support of the Chinese government.
From Policy Innovations, February 14, 2007
With the help of African votes, China led a successful campaign for leadership of the World Health Organization, resulting in the international echo of the Chinese government’s latest domestic slogan when incumbent Margaret Chan pledged to build a “harmonious health world.”
But before this vote was held another event occurred.
From The Standard, November 4, 2006:
Beijing Friday threw in another heavyweight to support Hong Kong’s former director of health Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun in what has become a high profile race for the top post in the World Health Organization.
“We fully support her, we have set up a campaign team. We hope she will succeed,” vice premier Wu Yi said Friday before attending the two-day China-Africa summit in Beijing.
Coincidently, the weekend summit of 48 African nations and China to discuss “future Sino- African cooperation,” comes just days before the WHO director general election starts on Monday.
Seven of the 34-member WHO executive board, which will reduce the short list of contenders from 11 to five, are from African countries. However, when asked if China will lobby the African representatives during the summit, foreign minister Li Zhaoxing said such a tactic “is not decent.”
Decent or not, there were many allegations of vote buying by the Chinese government in their intense quest to make Margaret Chan Director-General of the WHO.
But another country with strong influence is also suggested to have supported Margaret Chan’s candidacy – the United States.
From the AP, November 8, 2006
“This was not an election about countries,” U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health John O. Agwunobi told The Associated Press. “This was an election about individuals … Margaret will be a servant of the entire world.”
From a press release from the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Michael Leavitt, November 8, 2006:
Dr. Chan is a strong leader, with a proven record on managing health programs as WHO Assistant Director-General for Communicable Diseases and Representative of the WHO Director-General for Pandemic Influenza. And as Director of Health for Hong Kong, Dr. Chan led the successful response to the outbreaks of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and highly pathogenic avian influenza. I am confident she will ensure WHO’s role as the premier global health agency, guided by scientific excellence and is well- prepared to meet the many challenges it faces.
From CIDRAP, November 9, 2006
Infectious disease expert Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, a leading proponent of pandemic influenza preparedness, praised the election of Chan. He said she provided “outstanding” leadership during the SARS crisis and has “timely and needed” expertise on avian flu.
“Margaret Chan understands infectious diseases at the household and neighborhood level, based on her longtime, hands-on public health work in Hong Kong,” said Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, publisher of the CIDRAP Web site. “This type of experience is invaluable in her role now as the leading international public health policy leader. She’s well grounded in the most practical aspects of what the WHO must be doing on a global basis.”
Were then Assistant Secretary for Health John O. Agwunobi, then Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Michael Leavitt, and Director of the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), Michael Osterholm, all ignorant of the fact that Margaret Chan left Hong Kong in disgrace after being censured for her poor performance during the SARS outbreak by the Legislative Council of Hong Kong? Did they know that a community organisation of SARS victims in Hong Kong tried to get her fired from the WHO because they blamed her for their loved ones deaths? Did they have any concern about entrusting the most powerful position in public health to the hand-picked choice of a Communist Dictatorship? If so, there is no record of it.
I would now like to ask these three men: “Do you regret your support of Margaret Chan? If not, do you agree with her that people in North Korea are skinny because they get lots of exercise and that public health there is the envy of the developed world?” Dr. Agwunobi and Mr. Leavitt are no longer in government, but Dr. Osterholm continues to publish CIDRAP. Perhaps one of the reporters there could interview him regarding Director-General Chan’s recent comments about North Korea. Come to think of it, isn’t it odd that no story on this issue has appeared at CIDRAP?
Well, isn’t it?
The next blog will focus on the PR team of Sandman and Lanard and their role in promoting Margaret Chan.