Dr Margaret Chan ends term as WHO Director General

30 Jun 2017

Dr Margaret Chan receiving a symbolic NTD scarf for her contribution to the eliminations of NTDs

The International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC) thanks Dr Margaret Chan for her contribution to global health and the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) as she leaves the World Health Organization (WHO), after serving two five-year terms as Director General.

Dr Chan has championed the elimination of trachoma and other NTDs throughout her tenure as Director General.  During her first year in 2007, she supported a historic first Global Partner's Meeting on Neglected Tropical Diseases. The meeting proved to be successful in developing and strengthening partnerships between local and national governments, NGOs and the private sector.  Moreover, it resulted in the delivery of donated drugs being streamlined, allowing large quantities to be efficiently distributed to at-risk communities.

Over the past 10 years, millions of people have been rescued from disability and poverty, thanks to one of the most effective global partnerships in modern public health

Dr Chan celebrated the success of this partnership in her valedictory speech stating, “Over the past 10 years, millions of people have been rescued from disability and poverty, thanks to one of the most effective global partnerships in modern public health.”

During Dr Chan's tenure as Director General, WHO and its partners have made significant progress to accelerate the elimination of NTDs. Key achievements include: 

  • Trachoma, the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, has been eliminated as a public health problem in Mexico, Morocco, and Oman. In 2016 alone, 260 000 people received surgery for trichiasis and more than 85 million people were treated with antibiotics;
  • 556 million people received preventive treatment for lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis);
  • More than 114 million people received treatment for onchocerciasis (river blindness): 62% of those requiring it;
  • Only 25 human cases of Guinea worm disease were reported in 2016, putting eradication within reach; 
  • Only 12 reported human deaths were attributable to rabies in the WHO Region of the Americas in 2015.

"During Dr Chan's tenure, partnerships have been strengthened and collaboration has increased," said ICTC Chair, Serge Resnikoff. "This has helped to reduce surgery backlogs and increased the amount of drugs being donated and distributed, as well as improving hygiene practices and environmental conditions around the world. This has all led to increased funding and new commitments to the elimination of NTDs, such as the London Declaration in 2012."

Dr Chan's leadership also played a significant role in the movement towards universal health coverage, which heavily influenced the WHO 2010 World Health Report and 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, respectively.

ICTC wishes Dr Chan well and looks forward to continuing the fight against NTDs with the newly elected Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Dr Tedros has a long history in public health and diplomacy. He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopia from 2012–2016, Minister of Health, Ethiopia from 2005–2012, and has chaired the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Roll Back Malaria partnership.

ICTC welcomes his support for universal health coverage, strengthening health systems and partnerships across countries, increasing transparency, and championing the voices of people and communities. Through continued partnership and collaboration, we will continue to make progress towards these commitments in the coming years, which will be key to leaving no one behind in the fight against trachoma and other NTDs.