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Africa backs Ethiopian to head WHO
June 30, 2016, 1:22 pm

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus formally launched his campaign to head the World Health Organization (WHO) at a press conference in Geneva on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body for WHO which includes delegations from all the 194-member states.

The Ethiopian minister of foreign affairs, who previously served as his country’s health minister from 2005 to 2012, was designated at the January meeting of the African Union summit as the continent’s sole candidate to become the next WHO director general.

Flanked by Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who chairs the African Union Commission, and Algerian Health Minister Abdelmalek Boudiaf, Foreign Minister Tedros told assembled reporters and observers in Geneva that a fresh view is needed to efficiently tackle the world health challenges. While noting that Africa has never had the opportunity to lead the UN agency, he emphasized that his candidacy is based on merit as demonstrated by a respected track record both at home and in the international arena.

A leaflet distributed at the press conference included a hearty endorsement by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. "Dr. Tedros' signature approach takes innovation, collaboration and community ownership as its core principles. The transformative changes he brought to Ethiopia's health sector are testimonies to his unique leadership style that gives primacy to county ownership and adaptive home-grown solutions,” the Prime Minister is quoted as saying.

“Through his leadership of global organizations, he has introduced reforms that helped them live up to the challenges of the day. I am proud to nominate Dr. Tedros, a transformational leader and unrelenting champion of global health, for the WHO Director General post."

Selection of the next WHO director general takes place in May 2017. In the intervening 12 months, Tedros said he will convey his platform to the world, key elements of which include universal access to basic healthcare, emphasis on policies to improve women and girls’ health, emergency-response readiness and consolidation of the WHO funding structure.

While Dr. Tedros has the formal endorsement of the African Union summit, which should guarantee 54 votes when the 194-member nations make the choice in May 2017, he will still need to do intense campaigning as efforts are reportedly underway to persuade some countries on the continent to back one of the other leading contenders, Philippe Douste-Blazy of France and Sania Nishtar of Pakistan.


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