22 May 2003 The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) announced today the creation of a new public-private initiative to fight the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and build surveillance facilities in China as well as the surrounding region.
"Despite the rapid and effective response from partners around the world, SARS exposes fundamental weaknesses in global health infrastructure," WHO Director-General Elect Jong-Wook Lee said. "The epidemic highlights the need for local and national surveillance and response mechanisms. This new fund and other innovative initiatives like it will help prepare the world to respond to future emerging diseases."
Recognizing both the social and economic impacts of SARS, the international business community has pledged support to mobilize the initial $100 million by September, according to WHO. Companies with operations or markets in Asia will be targeted.
The UN agency will collaborate with the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global Health Initiative to assemble a coalition of business leaders and committed individuals who will in turn design the fund and mobilize the resources to fill it.
"The money will be disbursed rapidly, to get it to the areas that need it most as quickly as possible," David Heymann, WHO Executive Director for communicable diseases programmes, said. "Our sense of urgency comes from the belief that there remains a window in which we can control SARS and eliminate the global threat it poses - forever."