Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Becomes The First African To Head WHO

On Tuesday afternoon, the WHA held the first ever election of a new Director-General that was open to all member states and elected Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia.

The African Union (AU) has congratulated Tedros Adhanom, the former Ethiopian Minister of Health, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, on his historic win as the first World Health Organization (WHO) Director General from Africa.

The former health minister and foreign minister received more than half the votes in the first round and then won a decisive second-round election on Tuesday at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, beating Britain's David Nabarro to the job.

Nominated by the Ethiopian government, Tedros, as he is reportedly known as, will take charge in July, for a five-year term.

Dr. Tedros won the most votes of WHO's 186 member states to earn appointment.

Dr. Ghebreyesus was declared the victor 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. Tedros, who prefers to go by his first name, will succeed Dr. Margaret Chan of China, who is ending her 10-year tenure on June 30.

Six candidates had stood to take the helm at the World Health Organization, which is tasked with combating outbreaks and chronic diseases, before Tedros took the floor at the WHO's annual ministerial assembly. Nabarro said he knows "how the kitchen works in the United Nations" and cited lessons learned from WHO's mistake-ridden response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Tedros said, "It was a massive effort delivering massive results".

"We need WHO to be more effective than it is today", the director of Harvard University's Global Health Institute, Ashish Jha, said at the Swiss Press Club event. He was recently accused of covering up three cholera epidemics in Ethiopia, although there had been no solid evidence of this claim.

The New York Times reported that during the leadership campaign, Tedros was accused of having covered up repeated outbreaks of cholera in Ethiopia, which may have delayed the worldwide response, and, more recently, the use of a cholera vaccine there.

"The world's most powerful health agency needs a leader who advocates for gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights as a net positive for all".

"Tedros is an excellent choice to lead World Health Organization", said Dr. Thomas Frieden, an ex-director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

He oversaw a drive to expand basic healthcare by building thousands of new clinics and boosting community-based health services.

  • Joanne Flowers