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World Health Organization (WHO)

Subject History

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


An agency of the united nations with its headquarters in Geneva. Founded in 1948, it was to monitor and collect statistics on world health, advise developing regions on health care and co‐ordinate national efforts to eradicate diseases. Its achievements were modest until the 1970s, when it established effective health services in deprived regions. The WHO took the lead in fighting epidemic diseases and had a major success when it eradicated smallpox in the decade 1967–77, the first disease to be eliminated by human effort. In 1980 a comprehensive programme of immunization, begun in 1974, aimed to get rid of other killer diseases: tuberculosis, measles and polio. Inoculation quadrupled in ten years with remarkable results. In India and Indonesia the rate of measles/TB inoculation rose from 0.1 per cent in 1980 to 96 per cent in 1990. An exception was the Soviet Union, where immunization levels declined from 95 per cent to 68 per cent in the same period. In 1988 the WHO declared its aim of eradicating polio, leprosy and tetanus (which affect 30 million people) by the year 2000. As part of its war on disease the WHO attacked the causes of disease (polluted water, poor sanitation and hygiene) and in the 1980s provided 1.6 billion people in the developing world with safe water. WHO activities tend to mirror the balance of power in the north–south divide . The eradication of smallpox ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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