Ethiopia’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Becomes 1st African Director-General of WHO

Fredrick Ngugi May 24, 2017
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the first African director-general of WHO. Photo credit: UN Multimedia

The World Health Organization (WHO) elected former Ethiopian Minister of Health Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to be its next director-general on Tuesday.

Dr. Ghebreyesus was declared the winner after two rounds of secret balloting by top health officials from more than 180 countries who met at the World Health Assembly in Geneva to elect a new WHO leader.

The former Ethiopian health minister, who is now the first African director-general of WHO, was competing with Sania Nishtar, a cardiologist from Pakistan, and David Nabarro, a physician and WHO veteran from Britain who led the U.N.’s response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, according to NPR.

Championing Universal Health Care

In their pitches, the three candidates promised to reform the notably bureaucratic WHO, advocate for universal health care, and ensure that the world is safer from the next global pandemic.

Dr. Ghebreyesus outlined his vast experience as Ethiopia’s minister for Health, saying he oversaw the construction of more than 16,000 health posts and 3,000 health centers as well as the deployment of more than 40,000 health extension officers across the country.

Although he has been widely criticized for downplaying domestic cholera outbreaks in Ethiopia, terming them as “acute watery diarrhea,” Dr. Ghebreyesus said transparency will be at the heart of the WHO if he is elected director-general.

“WHO must evolve to be more transparent, responsive, effectively managed, adequately resourced,” Dr. Ghebreyesus said in his final pitch.

Bureaucratic WHO

Dr. Ghebreyesus joins the international health organization at a time when it is reportedly being accused of being overly bureaucratic, slow, wasteful, and ineffective.

Even the outgoing director-general, Dr. Margaret Chan, admits that the organization was slow in its response to the West African Ebola outbreak.

“This is a make or break time for the World Health Organization,” the director of the Center for Humanitarian Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Paul Spiegel, said.

With the current rise in disease outbreaks across the world, Spiegel believes that the world needs a strong WHO with a strong leader.

WHO’s main objective is to build a better, healthier future for people all over the world, especially in the less developed countries.

It helps to combat infectious diseases, such as influenza and HIV, and non-communicable ones, such as cancer and heart disease.

The organization also helps Mothers and children to survive and thrive so they can look forward to a healthful old age.

Currently, WHO has offices in more than 150 countries and works closely with governments and other partners to offer high-quality health care.

Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: June 19, 2018


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