• Short Summary

    The World Health Organisation celebrates its 25th anniversary on April 7 -- and can look back on 25 successful years.

  • Description

    The World Health Organisation celebrates its 25th anniversary on April 7 -- and can look back on 25 successful years.

    There had been previous attempts to co-ordinate international action against individual disease -- for example, the 1902 pan-American campaign against yellow fever -- but never before had it been possible to wage war against disease on a global scale. It was a cholera outbreak in Egypt in 1947 which indicated the need for an organisation to arrange immediate international counter-attacks against diseases. Within the past 25 years, WHO has virtually eradicated two of the world's worst killers, smallpox and malaria, from vast sections of the map. Smallpox has been reduced from 2,500,000 cases a year to fewer than 200,000 and may soon be completely conquered. Malaria is no longer an invisible tyrant in the 37 nations where it once rampaged.

    Other diseases which have been brought under control in many areas include yaws, tuberculosis, yellow fever and leprosy. Trachoma is a disease of serious proportions in 21 nations: 2,000,000 people are blind and another 500,000,000 affected by it. But slowly, WHO is beating it.

    Sometimes there is no quick cure for a disease, but the development of WHO's world-wide monitoring service enables it to take swift action when there are outbreaks of such intimidating illnesses as cholera, yellow fever, and rabies. Nearby nations are warned, health teams are rushed in, quarantine is imposed.

    But now the days of dramatic effect are past. It is the painstaking work with little visible effect that is important. Hygiene, improvement of conditions, establishment of health services -- these are the current campaigns that WHO is waging. It is more important to prevent a disease than tackle an outbreak of it. So, wherever possible, WHO experts strike first at the invisible germs that spared the diseases. Wide-spread spraying on a regular basis can gradually eradicate many potential killers. Doctors and nurses are trained to go into the field, the bush and the jungle to teach people not to drink contaminated water. Clean water -- if it were freely available everywhere, half the battle against disease would be won immediately, according to WHO experts.

    Research is another important aspect of WHP activities. It is a sign of its success against such diseases as malaria and various fevers, that WHO can now pay attention to combatting cancer, nutritional deficiencies, the effects of old age and psychiatric illnesses.

    Some illnesses, however, have multiplied in recent years. Venereal diseases, for example, are now an alarming epidemic, increasing in some countries by eight per cent annually. Cholera has suddenly reappeared in places and some insects have developed resistance to insecticides.

    But when World Health Day is held on April 7 to celebrate 25 years of WHO, the "balance sheet" assessing its contribution to humanity will show that the World Health Organisation has been one of the most effective of all the international agencies.

    This film has been compiled from material supplied by the World Health Organisation.

    SYNOPSIS: On Saturday, the World Health Organisation is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The occasion is being observed everywhere as World Health Day. And the world has become a much healthier place in the past 25 years. There are now six regional headquarters as well as the main headquarters in Geneva. Each has expert staffs, and complex monitoring equipment to spot the outbreak of any disease which could become an epidemic. And its an organisation that works. Smallpox and malaria, for example, were killer diseases that spread fear and death two decades ago. Today they're almost conquered.

    But there's still much to be done. People to be taught that conditions like this lead to diseases like this.

    Two million people in India still suffer form the only too apparent horrors of elephantiasis.

    The cause of this disease is obvious from its name. River blindness.

    In many countries people still wash in water contaminated by excrement. The result can be a liver disease with horrible consequences. Many of the victims simply did not know the possible consequences.

    Often the enemy is not the water itself but the dangers that lurk around it. This innocent-looking lake is swarming with mosquitos which can spread malaria.

    So the battle's always on. Officials of the World Health Organisation use every means possible to take the war into the enemy's camp.

    Sometimes ancient methods of transport are needed to convey the most modern weapons into the front-line.

    It's not without its dangers, but often the World Health Organisation flag is flown in triumph. Whole countries have been liberated from diseases which where invisible tyrants.

    Sometimes there are strange scenes as modern science and age-old customs are both invoked in the health campaigns. Often less-educated people have a superstitious awe of the chemicals they are given to combat illnesses they once thought were imposed by gods as punishments.

    Water is frequently the key to disease. Dirty water causes it. Clean water can being new life to a village and lead to new sanitary standards. If clean, fresh water were available everywhere, half the health problems in the world would disappear, according to experts at the World Health Organisation.

    These chemical formulae would be meaningless to most of the people they'll help most. Scientists are continually coming up with new vaccines, new weapons against disease. But as diseases are conquered, new problems emerge. Venereal diseases are now epidemic in some countries and the World Health Organisation is turning to new problems such as the health effects of pollution and psychiatric illnesses caused by modern stresses.

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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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