World Health and the WHO

Inaugural speech of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru at the first meeting of the Regional Committee of the World Health Organization for South-East Asia, New Delhi, October 4, 1948.

I join the Health Minister in offering you, Delegates, a very warm welcome on behalf of our  Government. I should just like to add a few words to that welcome and tell you that we not only welcome you in a formal sense, but we really attach the greatest importance to the significance of the work that this great organization is doing, more especially from the point of view of South-East Asia, which, compared to many other parts of the world, is backward in its health conditions. Now, health is a very big word and I see it is defined in the objectives of your Charter. I am happy to read that you have defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. If you achieve that object, I am sure you would have solved the whole problem in the world, because if we can achieve that nearly every problem disappears from the world. So I am happy that we too may eventually, even though perhaps we cannot achieve that end quickly, reach that goal, or something really worthwhile.

In the political sphere, the United Nations Organization has been functioning for two or three years. It is struggling hard against very great problems and not always finding it easy to make progress. Nevertheless, with all its weaknesses, which are weaknesses not so much of the organization as of the world we live in, it is making progress and it is the only thing in this world today which offers some hope of ultimate solution of the political problems of the world. Whether the world is wise enough to take advantage of that opportunity, I am not a prophet enough to say. But it appears to me that the only possibility of achieving real peace lies in greater and greater international co-operation on every plane. Therefore, it becomes the duty of us on the political plane as well as other planes to endeavour to bring about that co-operation.

On the political plane, there are big conflicts; on other planes there are no such conflicts, but you must have enough resources to tackle them. Therefore, if we have more and more international co-operation in this and like activities, not only do we do good in a sphere which is essential for the progress of the world, but indirectly we really solve the major political and economic problems of the world also. We thus create an atmosphere of international co-operation, and this is a very big thing, and I feel today, looking at the world, that there are these big conflicts and they are due to many causes and reasons, but probably the biggest cause is that there are certain psychological conditions in the world which are dominated by a sense of fear, fear of everybody, fear of one another and fear of another country. Now, if that sense of fear should go, there would be more international co-operation in every field of activity.

Therefore, if I may say so, speaking as a person who has to move largely in the political field and looking at things from the political angle these approaches to international cooperation in other fields are an essential preliminary to a solution of the political and economic problems also. Some people may imagine that in these times, this co-operation in other fields is somewhat isolated from the political or economic questions, but national life is ultimately an integrated whole. If there is something wrong, it upsets the whole structure. If the health of an individual goes wrong, the physical health of a nation goes wrong and it affects the world too.

Thus from every point of view, the subject of health and this World Health Conference is the most essential matter for the future well-being of the world, both in the material sphere and in other spheres. There has been a complaint in the past, which, no doubt, many of you gentlemen have heard, perhaps voiced, that in these great international organizations special emphasis is placed on the problems, shall I say, of Europe or America or certain other parts of the world and not on parts of Asia. I complain of this, because in the nature of things the people who take a prominent part in these organizations are interested in the great problems of Europe. And yet if you look at the question of health, obviously you will have to under- take the treatment of the great tracts of Asia and some other parts of the world.

It is also well known today that you cannot isolate the world and make part of it healthy and leave part of it unhealthy, because infection spreads; everything spreads. Today if there is war, it spreads, if there is disease, it spreads and, therefore, you have to tackle the world as a whole. Then in tackling the world as a whole, it becomes more necessary to tackle those parts which have been backward in any particular respect. Therefore, the tackling of the health problems of South-East Asia is particularly important and I am happy that the regional system of tackling these problems is developing, so that more attention may be paid to these particular problems of particular regions. I can assure you that as far as the Government of India is concerned, they will do their utmost to help you in this organization and to carry out the decisions that you may make.

Previous Post Next Post