World Health Organization Elects First African Director

He led a comprehensive reform effort of Ethiopia’s health system, creating 3,500 health centers and 16 000 health posts.

The candidates are Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a 52-year-old former government minister in Ethiopia; Sania Nishtar, a 54-year-old cardiologist and former government minister from Pakistan; and David Nabarro, 67, a physician and longtime United Nations official from Britain.

The Assembly, which includes 194 countries, has chosen Dr Tedros Adhanom as WHO Chief and due to take office on 1 July 2017. A specialised researcher in tropical medicine, beat UK’s David Nabarro, 67, (current special adviser to UN Secretary-General on Climate Change) and Pakistani cardiologist Sania Nishtar (54) to become the new World Health Organization boss.

Tedros, widely seen as having an in-built advantage because he can call on about 50 African votes, would be the first African head of the WHO. The two others were David Nabarro from the United Kingdom, and Sania Nishtar from Pakistan, in a process that began before September 2016.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus from Ethiopia, newly elected as Director General of the World Health Organisation, receives his contract during the 70th World Health Assembly at the UN’s European headquarters at Geneva on Tuesday.

Dr Ghebreyesus will succeed Dr Margaret Chan, who has been WHO’s Director-General since 1 January 2007.

Nabarro, a WHO insider who has worked for 40 years in worldwide public health, had pitched himself as a “global candidate”.

Director-General, Tedros Adhanom, highlighted on Wednesday the importance of treating health as an inalienable human right.

He has 30 years of experience in health leadership, politics and diplomacy, during which he was the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Health of Ethiopia.

WHO sets global health policies and advocates for better conditions among the world’s poor. Tedros, he is the first African to head the agency. “Many members of the World Health Assembly told me it smacked of dirty politics, and angered them against Nabarro”.

He listed delivering universal healthcare, especially to the world’s most impoverished, as his top priority.

In his final pitch to member-states before ballots were cast, Tedros vowed to staff the World Health Organization with “a world-class workforce” while introducing strict accountability measures, which critics say have been sorely lacking at the Geneva-based agency. “I have the ability to accelerate the reforms that you have championed”.

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