Margaret Chan gets WHO campaign aide

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 August, 2006, 12:00am

The Hong Kong government has sent a senior civil servant to Geneva to provide support for former director of health Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun's campaign to become the World Health Organisation's next director-general.

Dr Chan, the WHO's assistant director-general for communicable diseases and the director-general's representative on pandemic influenza, was nominated by Beijing on July 25 for the UN health agency's top post.

The former Hong Kong health director has yet to announce her election platform and has just 21/2 months to campaign before the organisation's election process is held between November 6 and 9.

From tomorrow, senior administrative officer Estrella Cheung King-sing will provide Dr Chan with administrative and logistical support during the campaign, a spokesman for the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau said yesterday.

Dr Chan, who has taken leave from her WHO posts in accordance with election regulations, is using a room at the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office as her campaign headquarters.

This week, the bureau said the Hong Kong government had 'made it clear [it would] complement the efforts' of the central government in supporting Dr Chan.

'As for how to render the assistance, the [Hong Kong government] will continue the discussion with Dr Chan,' a bureau spokeswoman said.

The WHO executive board's 34 members will decide through interviews between November 6 and 8 who to propose to the World Health Assembly be named director-general. The assembly will announce the new leader on November 9.

The term of the new director-general will also be decided by the board. The director-general's post at the UN health agency fell vacant with the sudden death of South Korean Lee Jong-wook in May.

Dr Chan is competing against four other contenders: Japan's Shigeru Omi, Mexico's Julio Frenk, Finland's Pekka Puska and Kuwait's Kazem Behbehani.

All are organisation insiders except Dr Frenk, who is Mexico's health minister.