Published: Wed, May 24, 2017
Money | By Armando Alvarado

World Health Organization elects first ever African director-general after tense vote

World Health Organization elects first ever African director-general after tense vote

The Member States of the World Health Organisation (WHO) have elected Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as the new Director-General.

They include former Pakistani health minister Sania Nishtar and WHO insider David Nabarro, a British doctor and diplomat who has spent two decades inside the United Nations system.

In the final phase of the race to elect the WHO's next leader, the three remaining candidates are making their last pitches Tuesday.

World Health Organization said in a statement following the afternoon vote that "Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was nominated by the Government of Ethiopia, and will begin his five-year term on July 1, 2017".

Before his election to the WHO director-general position, Tedros was Ethiopia's foreign affairs minister, and from 2005 to 2012 he was the country's health minister, according to a press release today from the WHO.

He has also served as chair of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; as chair of the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership Board, and as co-chair of the Board of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.

In his victory speech, Tedros noted it was "challenging times for global health" but added that "all roads lead to universal health coverage", calling it his central priority.

Delegates, health ministers and other high-level envoys were deciding Tuesday between Tedros and Britain's Dr. David Nabarro, a United Nations veteran, to be the United Nations health agency's next director-general.

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Nabarro tweeted his congratulations to Tedros after the vote, writing, "I urge everyone to unite behind him & his vision".

The former health minister has been dogged by allegations - from one of his rival Nabarro's advisers - that he covered up cholera outbreaks in Ethiopia, and protesters have occasionally interrupted proceedings at the meeting in Geneva this week.

The incoming health chief was chosen from among three nominees presented to the World Health Assembly.

In the second round, Tedros won 121 votes to Nabarro's 62.

US Health Secretary Tom Price said the next WHO head must continue overhauling the agency, "taking a clear-eyed view of what needs to change".

In her final address to WHO's member states, she acknowledged that mistakes had been made during her decade at the helm, but stressed that while "we falter sometimes. we never give up".

Six candidates had stood to take the helm at the World Health Organization, which is tasked with combating outbreaks and chronic diseases, before Tedros took the floor at the WHO's annual ministerial assembly.

Although some people see Dr Tedros as a controversial pick, many others point to his impressive CV and track record, and insist he is the best person to lead the world's "guardian of global health".

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