The World Health Organization (WHO) is an agency of the United Nations that organises and funds healthcare programmes in nearly every country in the world. WHO
was established in 1948. In collaboration with national
governments and other international aid agencies, WHO works to reduce human disease, funds medical research, provides emergency aid during disasters, and aims to improve nutrition, housing, sanitation, and working conditions in developing countries.
Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the agency is, perhaps, best known
for its immunisation programmes and its successful campaign to
All nations recognised by the UN are eligible for membership in WHO. In 2004, the organization had 192 member countries. The central structure of WHO includes the policymaking body called the
World Health Assembly, which consists of delegates of all member
nations and meets yearly; an executive board of 32 individuals elected by the assembly; and a secretariat, consisting of a director-general and a technical and administrative staff. The agency maintains regional organisations for Southeast Asia, the eastern Mediterranean area, Europe, Africa, the Americas, and the western Pacific area.
The idea for a global health agency was proposed in 1945 at the United Nations Conference on
International Organisation, held in San Francisco, California, to complete a charter for the UN.
Following several more gatherings, the UN approved WHO’s charter on April 7, 1948.
The organisation’s first programmes were directed at fighting smallpox, plague, yellow fever, cholera, and malaria. The programmes also expanded immunisations for measles, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, tuberculosis, and polio. WHO’s global campaign to eliminate smallpox began in 1967 with the organization launching mass vaccination programmes in many developing countries. By 1972, incidence of the disease was restricted to only a handful of nations in Africa.
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