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The world faces a "clear and present opportunity" to confront and possibly defeat a combination of devastating diseases that kill at least six million citizens a year. That assessment was delivered Friday to a group of Kennedy School students by Jack Chow MPA 96, special envoy of the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) during a lunchtime seminar sponsored by the Center for International Development.
"We are fighting a modern pandemic," Chow said. "The challenge before us is there is still an undeveloped recognition of the raging epidemics of tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria."
Chow spoke of the alarming fact that tuberculosis, though wiped out in many countries, remains a health crisis in Africa. He also pointed out that 75 percent of those who die from malaria are African children under the age of five.
"There is a negative compounding effect from these three curable diseases," he said. "It is literally erasing the next generation of Africans."
Chow outlined a four-point action plan to confront world health issues, ranging from research and development, education and training, to building coalitions and mobilizing resources more effectively. Leadership is also important, he said, commending the contributions made by former UN Ambassador Richard Holbrook, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, and rock star Bono.
"We need to have a cadre of leaders with clarity, vision, and forcefulness of purpose who together can ignite action," he proclaimed.
Chow also expressed great hope for the future of global health initiatives, pointing to strong efforts undertaken by the WHO, the Global Fund, and the Gates Foundation, which has mobilized billions of dollars for work in the developing world.
"These are exciting developments," he said, describing global health work as a "campaign for liberation...helping people live their lives healthfully, productively...and joyfully."