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Director-General to attend G8 Summit

Dr LEE Jong-wook has been invited by Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, to attend the G8 Summit in July.

Dr Lee
JM Ferre
Dr Lee

In his letter of invitation, President Putin stressed that the agenda included "the most important issues of today", including control of infectious diseases. "I strongly believe that the World Health Organization could make its valuable contribution to elaboration of the initiatives of G8 in 2006," said Putin. HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, for example, are a major threat to public health. They kill more than six million people every year, and leave millions more sick and unable to be productive. In many countries in sub-Saharan Africa in particular these diseases have reversed development gains, and threaten future progress.

Polio eradication is also a global priority. With a 99 per cent reduction in polio since 1988 and the disease now cornered in just a few areas, global support to stamp out transmission is crucial.

Dr Lee has also stressed the urgent need for countries to prepare for a possible influenza pandemic, including by testing national pandemic preparedness plans and advancing containment measures. The H5N1 avian influenza virus, currently infecting and killing millions of wild birds and domestic poultry, is a strong candidate to mutate into a form which spreads easily from person to person. The SARS epidemic cost the world at least USD 30 billion in economic losses. The social and economic effects of even a mild influenza pandemic would be many times more.

Resources to prepare for a pandemic are a major issue, and the need to fulfill funding pledges for pandemic preparedness, particularly for developing countries, is urgent.

Dr Lee will attend the Summit from 15 to 17 July as well as the G8 Health Ministers meeting in Moscow 27-28 April. President Putin has announced that the three main items on the 2006 G8 summit agenda are: control of infectious disease, energy security and education.

For more information contact:

Christine McNab
DGO Media and Communications
Telephone: +41 22 791 4688
Mobile phone: + 41 79 254 6815