Ethiopian politician, academic, and public health figure, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyeus will be the next general director of the World Health Organization (WHO). He is the first African to lead the UN agency after he won most of the votes from the members. Dr. Tedros is replacing Dr. Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun who is stepping down after ten years as the general director of WHO. Speaking to the group, Dr. Tedros said the World Health Organization would respond to future crisis swiftly.
Dr. Tedros lives in Ethiopia with his family. He was the minister of health and foreign affairs and the chairman of the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria. He joined the Ethiopian Ministry of Health in 1986 after graduating from the University of Asmara in Asmara, Eritrea. He is a malaria researcher and as the health minister was praised for improving healthcare access.
The BBC reported that Dr. Tedros’ appointment as the General Director of the World Health Organization “was not without controversy.” In Ethiopia, he was accused of a cholera epidemic while opposition groups in Ethiopia are critical of him. The groups believe Tedros’ appointment “is an attempt to raise the country’s diplomatic profile.” Science reported that Dr. Tedros was widely criticized about being part of the Ethiopian government that supposedly “committed human rights abuses.”
At the World General Assembly, Dr. Tedros told the assembly that he would “make a difference” and that he was “ready to serve,” the BBC said. Dr. Tedros already has several priorities as the General Director of the World Health Organization including universal health coverage; rapid response to disease outbreaks and emergencies; the well-being of women, children, and adolescents; climate change effects on health; and transparency and accountability for the WHO. Science reported that the election of Dr. Tedros “comes at a crucial time for WHO,” after it’s lax responsiveness in the Ebola outbreak.
Some call this a “turning point” for the organization. Lawrence Gostin, who opposed Tedros’ appointment, said that it was more about the WHO reforming and becoming “less bureaucratic.” He added that while he opposed Tedros, he wants him to “succeed.” Gostin added that Tedros would need to “build up confidence” and bring in more funding. Tedros Adhannom Ghebreyesus ran against Britain’s David Nabarro and Sania Nishtar of Pakistan, according to ABC News. Dr. Tedros is the first non-medical doctor to lead the World Health Organization.
By Cheryl Werber