Intended for healthcare professionals


In pursuit of “humanitarian science”

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 04 December 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:1308
  1. Geoff Watts
  1. London

    In the late 1960s a research institute in Bangladesh pioneered a treatment that has saved 40 million lives worldwide. What happened next? David Sack explains

    “We ought to pass a UN resolution that no country should be allowed to make a nuclear weapon until its infant mortality rate has dropped below 30 [per thousand].” Dry humour from Professor David Sack, as he points out how different countries—Pakistan and Bangladesh, in this case—have different priorities. Pakistan possesses the bomb, but Bangladesh, though poorer, and without nuclear weapons, has fewer deaths in infancy.

    As director of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Dhaka, Sack rejoices in the positive things he can say about Bangladesh, a country often dismissed as one of the world's basket cases. Sack views it in a more sympathetic light. “I often say it's one of the most successful nations. Nowhere else is there a piece of land that supports so many people with such little adverse impact on its ecology.”

    The centre itself is descended from the Cholera Research Laboratory set up in 1960 by the South East Asian Treaty Organisation. It runs hospitals and clinics in Dhaka and elsewhere, does research, and was the first—and remains the only—international health research organisation based in a …

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