The sudden demise of the Director General of World Health Organization, Dr Lee Jong-Wook, is a major loss to global health programmes, People's Health Organization (India) said here today.
Lee, 61, who led the global response to SARS, bird flu, and other deadly diseases, was the first WHO chief to have died while serving as DG, PHO general secretary I S Gilada said.
PHO's condolence resolution stated that ''the sudden death of the WHO chief was devastating, it has left the world shocked and the public health field orphaned''.
Lee was to speak later this week to delegates from 192 countries at the World Health Assembly in Geneva to set public-health priorities, Gilada said.
The tuberculosis specialist from South Korea was elected as the WHO director-general in May 2003 for a five-year term after serving the organization for 20 years.
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has expressed shock at the sudden death of WHO Director General Dr Lee Jong-wook.
Lee died after he underwent an emergency surgery for a blood clot in his brain. Dr Lee took over the reins of World Health Organization in the wake of the 2003 SARS outbreak, after serving the organization for more than 20 years.
Dr Lee was in the forefront of the global fight to prevent the avian flu pandemic and spearheaded battles against public health threats such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, Annan said, condoling Dr Lee's death.
''Not only was he a valuable leader to the WHO, but a cherished colleague and a personal friend,'' Annan said.