The World Health Organization (WHO) has elected An Ethiopian medical doctor, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as its new Director-General.
Dr. Ghebreyesus, who was nominated by the Government of Ethiopia and will begin his five-year term on 1 July. He is the first African to occupy the position.
There had been fears that Ghebreyesus would not get enough votes to become the DG as the political drama in Geneva caused tension among health experts who feared whether politics could outweigh accountability and experience in the casting of the ballots.
Dr. Tedros who is a malaria expert beat Dr. David Nabarro of Britain after three voting rounds. The final tally was 133 votes to 50, with three abstaining or not voting.
Dr. Sania Nishtar, a Pakistani cardiologist and expert in non-communicable diseases, was eliminated after receiving 38 votes in the first round.
An elated Rwandan delegate Janine Barde said:
It’s a joy, the continent is celebrating at last,I feel stakeholders are now in charge, not bureaucrats.
Ghebreyesus had served as a Minister of Health in his home country and led a comprehensive reform effort of the country’s health system, including the expansion of the country’s health infrastructure, creating 3500 health centres and 16 000 health posts.
He had served as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopia from 2012-2016 and as Minister of Health from 2005-2012.
He also served as chair of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; chair of the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership Board, and co-chair of the Board of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.
The reform also led to the expansion of the East African country’s health workforce by 38 000 health extension workers; and initiation of financing mechanisms to expand health insurance coverage.
As Minister of Foreign Affairs, 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.
As chair of the Global Fund and of RBM, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus secured record funding for the two organizations and created the Global Malaria Action Plan, which expanded RBM’s reach beyond Africa to Asia and Latin America.