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Cholera in Egypt and the Origins of WHO, 1947
Marcos Cueto
Professor Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia

Part of a larger study on the history of WHO, Global Health Histories initiative, E. Fee, T. Brown et al.

General theme and questions:
In 1947 the organizers of WHO planned to hold the 1st World Health Assembly within a few months but the process took longer and faced urgent problems such as a cholera outbreak Tension between the need to respond to emergencies and institution building processes How to combine relief with prevention? How to modernize quarantine regulations? How to work in a conflictive region and period? (Palestine refugees, the creation of Israel, the beginning of the Cold War) John Lennon “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans”

Background
Between 1882-1920s part of the British Empire but never officially a colony In 1922 the UK unilaterally declared independence

However, British influence continued (maintaining its control over the Suez canal) Occupied by the Germans during most of the WWII In the early 20th century an export economy: cotton In 1947 the total population of the country over 19 million British soldiers at the piramid of Giza, c. 1899 www.artehistoria.com

H.M. Farouk I, King of Egypt and of Sudan. ruled Egypt between 1936 and 1952. Undermined by accusations of a lavish royal lifestyle in a poor country, corruption and pick-pocketing In 1945 Egypt became a member of the Arab League with headquarters in Cairo; against UN plan for partition of Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state Egypt was defeated during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War but maintained control of a strip of territory around Gaza

A country on the threshold of a revolution
A military coup in 1952, directed by Gamal A. Nasser, forced Farouk to abdicate A year later a republic emerged

Shortly after WWII: about 1000 Arab refugees homeless in Lebanon, Syrian, Jordan and Gaza Medical and relief programs under WHO`s The Lamp is Light, the Story of WHO, 1951

Medical Modernization in Egypt during the 20th century

Rene Francis, Public Health in Egypt, Cairo 1951, NLM

Medical Modernization in Egypt
A medical tradition of 5,000 years. Naguib Pasha Mahfouz, leading gynaecologist and international lecturer A Serum and Vaccine Institute at Cairo In 1936 a Ministry of Health definitely established However, still a country with bilharzia, hookworm, malaria “Egyptian doctors have an eye for disorder that even a Dutch housewife cannot equal“ Francis, Public Health in Egypt

1945. United Nations Conference, San Francisco. Souza (Brazil) and Sze (China) propose to create an international health organization. Both members of the Health Division of United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, UNRRA.

A Brief Chronology of WHO, 1946-1948
1946 April: Technical Preparatory Committee prepares a Constitution 1946 July: International Health Conference in NY creates an Interim Commission, IC 1946 IC absorbs OIHP (Paris) Offices in Geneva and NYC Between April 1947 and January 1948 IC meets at four months intervals Also absorbs functions of the League of Nations Health Organization and UNRRA 1947 September & October: Cholera epidemic in Egypt 1948 24 June-24 July: 1st World Health Assembly, Geneva (65 nations) Paradox: For its organizers the definitive establishment of WHO was slow because ratifications took longer than expected; seen from the present it appears as a short period. It questions the common perception that progress in international health usually proceeds slowly

Organizing principles
A single specialized agency with a high degree of independence Link new medical developments and public health needs Anticipate the major needs on world health. A selection of priorities Include as many member States as possible Publications: Bulletin of WHO, Chronicle of WHO; Weekly Epidemiological Record, Epidemiological and vital statistics report, Official Records of...
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