The World Health Organization, sometimes referred to as WHO, is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that is responsible for the direction and coordination of health related issues on a global scale. In addition to making decisions regarding matters of health research, medical standards and policy options, WHO also offer technical support to countries and monitor and asses modern day health trends.
Formation of the World Health Organization
Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Health Organization was established on April 7th 1948, inheriting the mandate and resources of its League of Nations predecessor, the Health Organization. The official objective of WHO is “the attainment by all people of the highest possible health,” a point illustrated by the agency’s flag; the Rod of Asclepius, a symbol for healing.
The World Health Organisation has 193 member states, who each appoint delegations to the World Health Assembly, WHOs supreme decision making body. Representatives of WHO’s member states meet once annually, usually in May, to discuss topics such as budgets and research methods, while a Director-General is appointed once every five years. In terms of financing, WHO is funded by contributions from member states as well as donors and other external benefactors. They also work closely with a number of partners and collaborative bodies and charities, who themselves provide additional financial support.
As well as directing and coordinating global health matters, the World Health Organization sponsors a number of authorities who are dedicated to preventing the continuing outbreak and spread of diseases such as SARS, malaria, tuberculosis, influenza and HIV/AIDS. Under the WHOs guidance and with their blessings and support, a number of safe and effective vaccines and drugs have been developed to help reduce the number of fatalities related to such disease, while in 1980, after more than twenty years of research, the organisation also announced the eradication of the disease smallpox. This announcement was significant in that it was the first known disease to be abolished by human efforts.
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