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Two girls 50 years apart

This week the World Health Organisation (www.who.org) released its report for 2003. While christians approach celebration of a boy birth 2004 years ago, WHO has focused on two girls, one born in Japan and one born in Sierra Leone. The difference between them is that the Japanese girl will live 50 years longer than the girl from Sierra Leone.

The Japanese child will receive vaccinations, adequate nutrition and good schooling. If she becomes a mother she will benefit from high-quality maternity care. She can expect to receive, on average, medications worth about $800 per year and much more if needed.

Meanwhile, the girl in Sierra Leone has little chance of receiving immunizations and a high probability of being underweight throughout childhood. She will probably marry in adolescence and go on to give birth to six or more children without the assistance of a trained birth attendant. One or more of her babies will die in infancy, and she herself will be at high risk of death in childbirth. If she falls ill, she can expect, on average, medicines worth about $4 per year.

These are the Christmas messages from WHO Director General LEE Jong-wook who took office and started his five-year term as Director-General of WHO on 21 July 2003. Born on 12 April 1945, in Seoul, Republic of Korea, LEE Jong-wook received a Medical Doctor degree (M.D.) from Seoul National University and a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Hawaii. He has worked at WHO for 19 years notably leading the fight against two of the greatest challenges to health and development: tuberculosis and vaccine preventable diseases of children. Dr Lee speaks English, Korean and Japanese, and reads French and Chinese.

Posted Sunday, 21 December 2003

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