New WHO chief, Ghebreyesus, takes office

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus [Photo: devex.com]
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus [Photo: devex.com]

Tedros Ghebreyesus, who was recently elected the World Health Organization’s, WHO Director-General, resumed for a 5 years term Saturday.

Mr. Ghebreyesus, an Ethiopian medical doctor, was nominated by the Government of Ethiopia and is the first African to occupy the position.

He was elected with the highest vote in May during the 70th World Health Assembly, defeating two other candidates vying for the position.

It was also the first time the health assembly selected a director-general from among multiple candidates.

There had been fears that Mr. Ghebreyesus would not get enough votes to become the D-G as there had been a political drama in Geneva which caused tension among health experts, who feared politics could outweigh accountability and experience.

His candidacy had been attacked at last-minute and this had raised questions about whether wealthy western powers were prepared to accept African leadership of global health institutions, as he was accused of covering up some epidemic outbreaks in his country during his tenure as a minister.

Mr. Ghebreyesus says he will focus on five main areas of work during his tenure.

They are: achieving universal health coverage; strengthening the capacity of national authorities and local communities to detect, prevent and manage health emergencies; improving the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents; addressing the health impacts of climate and environmental change; and building a transformed, transparent and accountable WHO.

“I believe the global commitment to sustainable development – enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals – offers a unique opportunity to address the social, economic and political determinants of health and improve the health and wellbeing of people everywhere,” he said.

The new DG said achieving this vision will require a strong, effective WHO that is able to meet emerging challenges and achieve the health objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals.

‘We need a WHO – fit for the 21st century – that belongs to all, equally. We need a WHO that is efficiently managed, adequately resourced and results driven, with a strong focus on transparency, accountability and value for money,” he added.

WHO Director-General is the chief technical and administrative officer who oversees the policy for the organisation’s international health work.

Before becoming WHO DG, Mr. Ghebreyesus had previously served as Minister of Health and Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ethiopia and as Board Chair of the Global Fund and Roll Back Malaria Partnership.

He succeeded Margaret Chan, who had been WHO’s Director-General for 10 years, since January 1, 2007.


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