Ethiopia’s Tedros emerges as new WHO Director General despite protests
For the first time ever, an African, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Gheybreysus of Ethiopia, has emerged as the new Director General of the apex health body, the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Despite protests on Monday against his candidature at the opening ceremony of the ongoing 70th World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland, Dr. Tedros was elected WHO’s boss yesterday (Tuesday), in the first election conducted under new, more open and democratic rules.
After nearly two years of public campaigning, originally by six candidates, the election itself took place in a closed-door session in which the health ministers of 194 of the world’s countries cast their ballots in secret.
Tedros — who campaigned under his first name — ultimately, beat Dr. David Nabarro, the British candidate, after two rounds of voting by winning 121 votes.
Dr. Sania Nishtar, a Pakistani cardiologist and expert in non-communicable diseases, was eliminated after a first round with 38 votes.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn appointed Tedros as Minister of Foreign Affairs, in November 2012. In January 2016 the Twenty-Sixth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union endorsed his candidature for the next election of the DG of the WHO as a sole African candidate.
Tedros, 52, was best known for having drastically cut deaths from malaria, Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), tuberculosis and neonatal problems when he was Ethiopia’s health minister. He trained 40,000 female health workers, hired outbreak investigators, improved the national laboratory, organized an ambulance system and multiplied medical school graduates tenfold.
He promised to pursue health insurance in even the poorest nations.Nabarro, 67, was best known for leading the campaigns of various United Nations agencies against avian and swine flu, Ebola, malaria, hunger and other crises.
The race began in 2015 and turned bitter at the very end, when an adviser to Nabarro accused Tedros of having covered up repeated outbreaks of cholera in his home country, which lowered the chances of an international response and, more recently, the use of cholera vaccine.
Tedros was also accused of complicity in his country’s dismal human rights record, which includes massacring protesters and jailing and torturing journalists and political opponents. Dozens of Ethiopians opposed to his candidacy demonstrated outside the Palace of Nations in Geneva, where the vote took place, and one individual who interrupted the proceedings was escorted out.
Tedros is from the Tigray tribe, which holds a disproportionate amount of political power in Ethiopia; many protesters are from the Amhara and Oromo tribes.
Tedros (born 1965) is an Ethiopian politician, academic, public health authority that served in the government of Ethiopia as Minister of Health from 2005 to 2012 and Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2012 to 2016. Tedros succeeds Margaret Chan as new DG of the WHO.
Tedros joined the Ministry of Health in 1986, after graduating from the University of Asmara. An internationally recognized malaria researcher, as Minister of Health, Tedros received praise for a number of innovative and system-wide health reforms that substantially improved access to health services and key outcomes. Amongst them were hiring and training roughly 40,000 female health extension workers, cutting infant mortality from 123 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2006 to 88 in 2011, and increasing the hiring of health cadres including medical doctors and midwives. In July 2009, he was elected Board Chair of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for a two-year term.