World Health Day
Dr Shin Young-soo
World Health Organization Regional Director for the Western Pacific
Professor E. Hyock Kwon, former president of the National Academy of Sciences in the Republic of Korea;
Dr S.T. Han, Regional Director Emeritus;
Dr Alberto Romualdez Jr., former Secretary of Health, Philippines;
Distinguished guests; colleagues and staff,
Today marks the 63rd anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization.
It also is a special day for us in the Western Pacific Region as we reopen our Conference Hall more than 18 months after it was destroyed during Typhoon Ondoy.
The global theme of this year's World Health Day is "Combat Drug Resistance! No action today, no cure tomorrow."
Sixty-three years ago at the foundation of WHO, the industrial production of penicillin had just begun and the dawn of a new era in the fight against communicable diseases was upon us.
Had there been a slogan for the very first World Health Day back in 1948 it might well have been "Antibiotics today! Cure tomorrow!".
Then Drug resistance was something unknown.
Antimicrobial drugs have served us very well over the past half century.
Millions of lives have been saved and thousands have been spared unnecessary suffering and disability.
But time is beginning to run out.
We have taken these precious medicines for granted for too long.
Inappropriate use has lead to escalating rates of resistance.
Drugs that once cured within days are now useless. Inexpensive and accessible treatment is increasingly out of reach for many, as more expensive drugs are needed to achieve what could have been done for a few cents not long ago.
We need to take action now to preserve the effective drugs that currently exist and to expand our knowledge through research and development.
We urgently need to start to invest in our future and the future of our children by taking the present threats seriously, preserving what we can from the past, and investing in new approaches for the future.
As well as being World Health Day, today is also is a special day for those of us in the Western Pacific Region as we reopen our Conference Hall, more than 18 months after Typhoon Ondoy.
In many ways the new building symbolizes the theme of this World Health Day—preserving what worked in the past, finding new approaches, and building for the future.
For many of you, this is a first opportunity to see the extensive renovations to prepare our 52-year-old regional headquarters for the next half century.
We've also invited a few special guests today to help us commemorate World Health Day and for the reopening of our Conference Hall.
I would like to briefly introduce them.
Dr S.T. Han, our Regional Director Emeritus, and Dr Alberto Romualdez Jr., former Secretary of Health in the Philippines, really need no introduction.
Both are frequent visitors to the Regional Office, and their wisdom and sound advice are a help to all of us.
I am delighted that Dr E. Hyock Kwon, former president of the National Academy of Sciences in the Republic of Korea, Minister of Energy, Minister of Health, Minister of Environment of Republic of Korea, and my mentor of many years, has also been able to join us today.
Dr Kwon has had a profound impact on many of us working in public health, and it is indeed an honour to have him here today.
We are also pleased to have two former colleagues with us today, Dr Richard Nesbit, formerly Director of Programme Management, and Dr Linda Milan, who most recently retired from Directorship in our Regional Office.
There are three other guests I would also like to mention by name.
Alfredo Luz was the original architect and inspiration behind this building. Alfredo Luz unfortunately can not be with us.
However his son, Mr Guillermo Luz, Executive Director of the Ayala Museum, is here today to represent his father and to provide us with some insights into the original designs for this beautiful building.
I would also like to welcome Architect Arlen de Guzman who was responsible for the redesign of our Conference Hall
All of you can see the beautiful murals which has been well preserved entrance in the new lobby of the Conference Hall.
Those murals, a gift from the Philippine Government in 1959, were painted by National Artist Arturo Luz, the brother of original Architect of this Conference Hall.
Though he can not be with us this morning we are very happy that National Artist Arturo Luz will be able to join us this afternoon for a viewing of his restored paintings and unveiling of a commemorative plaque.
I also want to welcome Mr Paolo Alcazaren our Landscape Designer who has provided such sound advice and creativity to this project.
And I would like to thank the many people who worked on other elements of the renovation project, including sanitation, ventilation, landscaping, interior design and parking.
The work is sincerely appreciated by all of us and has provided a modern, visitor friendly and eco-conscious environment that will serve WHO and its Member States for the next 50 years.
A little history will help put these changes in perspective.
Some of you might be surprised to know that our first Regional Office was located briefly in Bangkok, before moving in 1950 to Hong Kong. China and the Philippines each offered to serve as the permanent headquarters for the Regional Office, and an old mansion was even identified in Shanghai to host our offices.
But civil war in China ended those plans, and in late August 1951 the Regional Office for the Western Pacific moved into temporary quarters in Port Area of Manila.
That two-storey concrete building served as our home for seven years, until we moved in February 1959 to United Nations Avenue to this plot of land of the University of the Philippines.
Five years ago, as our original structures neared their 50th birthday, a new building was added along our Taft Avenue boundary and renovations were undertaken on the other buildings.
Then, a little more than 18 months ago, Manila was inundated by Typhoon Ondoy.
Water was knee-high inside our compound.
All of you can remember that the Conference Hall and its functionalities were destroyed.
We quickly restored essential services so that we could continue to serve our Member States, and then we began to address the damage.
It became clear that in addition to the Conference Hall, we needed to address some significant concerns with drainage and sanitation, ventilation and the grounds if we wanted a Regional Office that could stand up to future emergencies and better serve our Member States over the next 50 years.
We consulted with the Staff Association, listened to the views of individual staff members, and brought in experts in design and environmental engineering before identifying five areas that needed attention.
· a new drainage and sanitation system
· renovation of the Conference Hall, with upgraded facilities
· a better air ventilation system
· additional parking, and
· landscaping more in tune with our tropical setting.
Now that these renovations and upgrades are in place, the Region will continue to reap the benefits of these investments for decades to come.
The highlight of the renovation, however, is the Conference Hall. It maintains its original iconic design but with a more polished look, energy-efficient lighting and air-conditioning, modern audio and video systems, access for people with disabilities, and welcoming areas for receptions and coffee breaks.
The hallways surrounding the Conference Hall and the reception area have been designed so that they can display artwork our Member States might want to donate.
An adjacent wing houses a lounge and rooms for breakout meetings, and connects to the meeting room areas in the main building.
The surrounding ponds have been upgraded, and are filling up with turtles and beautiful fish donated by staff and friends of WHO.
I must thank our staff members for bearing with the work, the dust and the noise that are always part of such renovations.
It is truly an honour to be serving as Regional Director during a time when we are not only tailoring our technical programmes and administration to better serve the needs of our Member States, but also are putting in place facilities and renovations that will serve us well for many years.
I would now like to introduce our Regional Director Emeritus, Dr S.T. Han.