Outgoing WHO chief defends her legacy in final address

A former Ethiopian health minister has been elected to lead the World Health Organisation.

Africa, where viruses such as HIV, Ebola and Zika emerged, has its first chief of the United Nations health agency.

Before his election to the WHO director-general position, Tedros was Ethiopia's foreign affairs minister, and from 2005 to 2012 he was the country's health minister, according to a press release today from the WHO.

Price also urged World Health Organization nations to "commit to further enhancing the transparency and accountability" and carry out reforms under Tedros' five-year term.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus beat Briton David Nabarro and Sania Nishtar of Pakistan in the race to be named World Health Organization director-general.

Tedros led all three rounds of voting and won 133 votes in the third round to Nabarro's 50.

The third candidate, Pakistan's Dr. Sania Nishtar, was eliminated after the first round.

Ethiopia Foreign Ministry spokesman termed Ghebreyesus' election to the top post as a "victory for Africa and Ethiopia". Tedros, who campaigned as "Dr. Tedros", is not a medical doctor; he has a Ph.D.in community health.

"All roads should lead to universal health coverage".

The former health minister has been dogged by allegations - from one of his rival Nabarro's advisers - that he covered up cholera outbreaks in Ethiopia, and protesters have occasionally interrupted proceedings at the meeting in Geneva this week.

Speaking to the delegates, Nabarro said "the health of 7 billion people rests in your hands" and acknowledged that some have felt "let down" by WHO and want it to be "more relevant, responsive and reliable".

Delegates, health ministers and other high-level envoys were deciding Tuesday between Tedros and Britain's Dr. David Nabarro, a United Nations veteran, to be the United Nations health agency's next director-general. "We look forward to working with Dr. Tedros".

He added: "Under my leadership, it will be". All three candidates promised to reform the famously bureaucratic WHO, to champion universal health care and to make the world safer from the next global pandemic.

Corrects that Tedros was seven when his brother died, not that his brother was seven.

As it stands, 185 member states attending WHO's World Health Assembly are eligible to cast ballots Tuesday afternoon. Nine others are either in arrears on their dues or not represented at the 10-day gathering.

Jubilant supporters, including one waving an Ethiopian flag, surrounded 52-year-old malaria specialist Tedros Adhanom after the final result was announced in the assembly hall at the UN's Geneva headquarters.

The director-general of World Health Organization wields considerable power in setting medical priorities that affect billions of people and declaring when crises like disease outbreaks evolve into global emergencies.

  • Zachary Reyes