Zagreb, Croatia, 20 July 2012 - Secretary-General remarks at visit to Andrija Stamapar School of Public Health [as prepared for delivery]
I am very happy to be here. Thank you very much, Dean Milicic, for your kind introduction.
I am especially grateful to Ms. Music for arranging this fascinating visit.
I am very impressed by all that I have seen here. You have a focus on the human rights aspects of public health. You are working directly with the United Nations. And you are looking outward to help other countries in their own public health campaigns.
As you know, the United Nations has a strong connection to Andrija Stampar. He was one of the founders of the World Health Organization. He also produced the definition of health that is still used today around the world.
I am pleased to see that you are carrying on his tradition of engaging with partners around the world. Today, this School of Public Health and the United Nations World Health Organization are collaborating to address major health threats, including HIV/AIDS. I congratulate you for having trained hundreds of specialists from Africa and Asia.
Global health is a major priority for me. I have set out a five-year action agenda which includes an ambitious plan to wipe out five of the world’s most devastating diseases. We are determined to eradicate polio and end deaths from malaria, HIV infections in newborns, maternal and neonatal tetanus and measles.
Our targets on AIDS are bold. By the year 2015, we aim to cut new infections by half … expand treatment to 15 million people … and ensure that no child is born with HIV.
These are milestones on the road to realizing an AIDS-free world, where there are no new HIV infections, no AIDS-related deaths, and no stigma or discrimination.
At the same time, I am spearheading the Every Woman, Every Child movement, together with more than 200 partners, including more than 70 governments. Our aim is to catalyze action to achieve the health-related Millennium Development Goals. We are working to ensure that women and children do not die when we have the science and the tools to save them.
A recent United Nations report shows that over the past 20 years, the number of women who die from complications during pregnancy has decreased by nearly half. This is great progress, but we have to keep going. No woman should risk death when she gives birth.
Every day, 800 women and more than 20,000 children die from preventable causes. This has to end.
I have seen the impact of Every Woman Every Child during visits to clinics in Africa and Asia. I make a point of meeting with everyone concerned: health workers, as well as leaders in governments, civil society, businesses and schools like this one. I also speak to the patients themselves. We all believe there is no better investment than health.
When I visit health clinics, I often immunize babies against polio. My point is that this is easy – even someone who is not a trained health worker can protect a life.
We can wipe out polio. The virus is now in only three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. But if we do not stamp it out, polio could spread again.
The United Nations is working with Rotary International to drive the global campaign. We know we can achieve success in the remaining three countries by bringing all partners together.
We have also reduced deaths from malaria. It is still a monumental tragedy that a child dies each minute from that disease, but at least we have slowed the clock from last year, when four children died every three minutes from malaria.
Here, too, success comes thanks to a global coalition that is taking successful strategies – like bed nets, indoor spraying, quick tests and anti-malaria medicines – and providing them to people in need.
Diseases do not carry passports. They do not respect borders. They provide a compelling example of how in our globalized world, countries must come together for solutions to our common problems. The United Nations is the best forum to carry out this work forward.
I am pleased to see that the Andrija Štampar School of Public Health is living up to its name.
The global definition that he developed states that health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
As President of the first World Health Assembly, Dr. Štampar showed his broad understanding of public health. He argued that diseases are caused not only by physical and biological factors but also by economic and social conditions.
Dr. Štampar called for action to enable all people to enjoy good health in the widest sense of that word. This way, he said, WHO would “become a powerful pioneer of world peace and understanding among nations.”
I fully agree that health can be a driving force for peace. The United Nations will always be your partner in carrying on the traditions of Dr. Štampar. I believe all of you can make an equally significant mark on our world, and leave a lasting legacy of health and peace.
In that spirit, I wish you great success in all of your future endeavours.
Statements on 20 July 2012