Tedros Adhanom elected next WHO director general
By Wire Services
May 23, 2017
In the first election conducted under new, more open and democratic rules, Tedros Adhanom Gheybreysus of Ethiopia was elected director general of the World Health Organization on Tuesday.
After nearly two years of public campaigning, originally by six candidates, the election itself took place in a closed-door session in which the health ministers of 185 of the world’s countries cast their ballots in secret.
Dr. Tedros — who campaigned under his first name — ultimately beat Dr. David Nabarro, the British candidate, after two rounds of voting by winning 121 votes.
Dr. Sania Nishtar, a Pakistani cardiologist and expert in noncommunicable diseases, was eliminated after a first round with 38 votes.
The director-general of WHO wields considerable power in setting medical priorities that affect billions of people and declaring when crises like disease outbreaks evolve into global emergencies.
The agency has stumbled in recent years, most notably in its error-prone response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and all three candidates vowed to overhaul its organization to restore credibility.
Of the U.N. health agency's 194 member states, 185 were eligible to cast ballots; nine others were either in arrears on their dues or not represented at the gathering.
Before voting started, Tedros, the only non-medical doctor among the three finalists, said it was almost "pure luck" that he was competing to lead WHO.
He noted that when he was growing up in Ethiopia, his 7-year-old brother was killed by a common childhood disease, and it easily could have been him. Among other pledges, Tedros said he would work "tirelessly to fulfill WHO's promise of universal health care ."
The former health minister has been dogged by allegations that he covered up cholera outbreaks in Ethiopia, and protesters have occasionally interrupted proceedings at the meeting in Geneva this week.
But Tedros received a boost from Dr. Thomas Frieden , an ex-director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Frieden wrote a letter published in the New York Times last week that commended Tedros for his creation of a network of 40,000 female health workers that implemented programs to save people from dying of diarrhea and other causes.
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