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World Health Organization (WHO) celebrates 75 years since the establishment. These are 75 years of overcoming crises, 75 years of faith in vaccination prophylaxis, 75 years of improving the quality of life, 75 years of efforts in the name of public health.


At the discussion studio “75 years WHO – Health for all” the participants were:

  • Assistant Professor Mihail Okoliyski – management of the WHO office in Bulgaria
  • Momchil Baev – founder of Astra Forum Foundation
  • Professor Iva Hristova – director of National Center of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases
  • Professor Plamen Dimitrov – director of National Center of Public Health and Analyses
  • Assistant Professor Angel Kunchev – Chief state health inspector of Republic of Bulgaria
  • Christina De Bruin – UNICEF Bulgaria representative

World Health Organization must have the ability to impact global health politics, said Assistant Professor Mihail Okoliyski. As a WHO achievement, he pointed out the eradication of some infectious illnesses with the obstacles of the tobacco industry and the production of unhealthy foods, along with the inequalities in healthcare.

“With the use of the slogan “Health for all”, chosen for this year’s campaign, we want to pay attention to the fact that every person in the world must have access to health care, which doesn’t lead to poverty for them or their families. This happens very often, many people are forced to pay large amounts of money for their treatment or medications, which leads to poverty. The universal healthcare coverage, which is our goal, suggests people should receive the interventions and care they need, without having to pay more”, Associate professor Okoliyski explained.


Professor Iva Hristova presented the achievements of the National Center for Infectious and Parasitic Diseases (NCIPD) in collaboration with WHO. Hristova emphasized that since 2004 Bulgaria is included in the program by WHO for elimination of morbilivirus and rubeola in the European region. “A Global laboratories network by WHO has been created for morbillivirus and rubeola. Also, NCIPD is the only laboratory in the country that has been accredited by WHO for performing laboratory diagnostics for these diseases.”

Professor Hristova explained that the collaboration with WHO on the “Global Infection Prevention and Control Strategy – WHO European region consultation” is 2022 is extremely important. The initiative includes a questionnaire that aims to gather information, regarding infection prevention and control (IPC) in Bulgaria, as well as to support our country in the efforts of WHO to develop a global IPC strategy.

The director of the NCIPD expressed their gratitude towards WHO for the provided equipment in 2022 for the Microbiology Department. It will be used in the preparation of the specific liquid culture medium Korthoff for cultivating leptospires.

Professor Plamen Dimitrov also congratulated the World Health Organization. He stated that the organization has a large impact on humanity in a positive aspect.

“A big part of WHO’s strategy is created with the efforts of the Ministry of Health and our efforts at NCPHA.”

Dimitrov highlighted some of the areas where they collaborate with WHO:

  • Chronic and infectious diseases program
  • Mental health – addiction prevention
  • Climatic health – Lancet report
  • Actions regarding children’s health
  • Health information

“The most obvious things are often the hardest to explain and define. That applies to the situation with WHO – we work so well together, that I consider them part of the Ministry”, said Assistant professor Angel Kunchev.

He told a story from 2001 about their mutual contribution in eradicating the poliomyelitis disease.

“The first month after I started working at the Ministry of Health, were reported the first cases of poliomyelitis in Burgas. The cases were “imported” by an Indian sailor, who had contact with a Bulgarian prostitute and infected her with the virus, then she infected her children and so on… That could have prevented the declaration of Europe as a poliomyelitis-free continent. Horrible story! Asia was polio-free, so were South and North America, while Europe, where the flag of civilization is waving, could not be certified as one.

We roughly knew what had to be done, and we knew our capabilities. The second day after the cases were announced, an expert from WHO visited us, and he approved our strategy for barrier immunization in Burgas, followed by Sliven and Yambol, then the entire country, risk groups and lastly all children. That sounds so easy, but try to organize it! On the third day of the expert’s visit, an airplane landed at Sofia airport, carrying the vaccine.

That is WHO! And nobody can do it by themselves: find the vaccine, pay for it, organize transportation, not even to bring the refrigerator bags, which are essential. To create the organization: to get the vaccine to every GP in every village on time, in order to reach the contingent. Which solved the problem and Europe was certified as poliomyelitis-free”.

“We work together with WHO for the past 75 years all over the world. We have a strong partnership here in Bulgaria, in order to provide health” stated Christina de Bruin from UNICEF.

She mentioned that during those 75 years, they had to face various challenges together.

“The partnership between WHO and UNICEF in Bulgaria works in several fields:

  • Primary healthcare and comprehensive care
  • Early childhood development
  • Actions in the field of immunizations
  • The battle with misinformation and denial of the vaccines
  • Mental health improvement

I believe that public health hasn’t received a well-deserved place in healthcare, said Momchil Baev, MD. According to him, we are focused on health treatments, and not healthcare.

Baev also noted that WHO is a symbol of security and high expertise.

“Since its creation in 1948, WHO has been facing different challenges every year. But WHO has proved that health is not just a fundamental human right, but also essential to the peace and security of society.

WHO has made great progress in protecting people from diseases and destruction, including the eradication of smallpox, reducing poliomyelitis cases by 99%, saving millions of lives through immunization, reducing maternal mortality, and improving the health and well-being of millions of people.”

“Astra Forum Foundation’s partnership with WHO is a tremendous show of support and solidarity on key actions, regarding vaccination-prophylaxis, mental health, the battle with misinformation in Ukrainian citizens” said Momchil Baev.

Thanks to mutual efforts with WHO we managed to:

  • Organize the First National conference in vaccine-preventable diseases;
  • Organize group sessions with leading psychotherapists for medical workers;
  • Host meetings with Ukrainian citizens to help their integration;
  • Create the home testing for HIV initiative;
  • Fight misinformation and more;

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