Former health, foreign minister of Ethiopia becomes WHO director-general

Some 3,500 delegates from WHO’s 194 member states are attending the WHO Health Assembly.

May 24, 2017 20:58
2 minute read.
Newly elected Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus att

Newly elected Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a former health and foreign minister of Ethiopia, has been elected director-general of the World Health Organization. He was elected in Geneva on Tuesday, with Israel’s ambassador Aviva Raz Shechter voting for him from among three candidates who included Dr. David Nabarro of the United Kingdom and Dr. Sania Nishtar of Pakistan.

“We wish him much success and hope to continue cooperation with the WHO,” said Einav Shimron-Grinboim, the Health Ministry’s deputy director-general for information, in a phone call from Geneva. “We are very pleased, and we invite him to visit Israel,” she said.

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Tedros was nominated by the government of Ethiopia and elected by secret ballot.

He will begin his five-year term on July 1. He replaces Dr.

Margaret Chan of Hong Kong, who has served in the position for the last decade.

Some 3,500 delegates from WHO’s 194 member states are attending the WHO Health Assembly where he was elected.

In addition to serving twice as minister in his government, he has also been chairman of the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; head of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership Board; and co-chairman of the board of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.

As minister, Tedros led a comprehensive reform effort of the country’s health system, including the expansion of the country’s infrastructure, creating 3,500 health centers and 16,000 positions in the health system; and initiated financing mechanisms to expand insurance coverage.

As foreign minister, he led the effort to negotiate the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, in which 193 countries committed to the financing necessary to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

In her final opening address to the World Health Assembly as director-general, Chan offered some advice to delegates “as you continue to shape the future of this organization.”

She called on the Health Assembly to make “reducing inequalities” a guiding ethical principle. The WHO stands for fairness, she said. “Countries should also work to improve collection of health data and make health strategies more accountable. Protecting scientific evidence should form the bedrock of policy,” she added, citing vaccine refusal as one of the reasons that the “tremendous potential of vaccines is not yet fully realized.”

In closing, Chan asked government representatives to “remember the people...

Behind every number is a person who defines our common humanity and deserves our compassion, especially when suffering or premature death can be prevented.”

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