23 May 2006

Secretary-General Shocked, Saddened by Death of WHO Director-General

NEW YORK, 22 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's statement on the death of Lee Jong-wook, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO):

I am shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Dr. Lee Jong-wook, Director-General of the World Health Organization.

Dr. Lee died as the World Health Assembly opened its annual meeting in Geneva today.

It was just a few days ago that Dr. Lee and I spoke by telephone while I was visiting Seoul, Republic of Korea.  Our conversation touched upon WHO's long-running efforts to tackle the global challenge of HIV/AIDS -- an area that he was particularly committed to -- as well as the Roll Back Malaria campaign.

Dr. Lee took over the reins of WHO in the wake of the SARS outbreak of 2003, and had been working energetically to strengthen the organization further in its global public health responsibilities.  He was at the forefront of the global fight to prevent an avian flu pandemic, and was a champion as well in the battle against a host of other public health threats from HIV/AIDS to tuberculosis.

Dr. Lee gave more than 20 years of dedicated service to the WHO.   Not only was he a valuable leader to WHO staff the world over, but a cherished colleague and friend to me personally.

I extend my deepest condolences to Dr. Lee's family, WHO staff and to the entire United Nations family.  This sudden loss of a leader, colleague and friend is truly devastating.

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