New WHO chief: Planned US funding cuts not a 'closed issue'

Tedros Adhanom, 52-year-old former health minister and foreign minister of Ethiopia, was elected on Tuesday as new Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), UN's health agency.

As Ethiopia's foreign minister Dr Tedros went on to lead negotiations for the Addis Ababa action agenda, an worldwide plan to finance the United Nations sustainable development goals.

Health ministers and other senior envoys to WHO's annual World Health Assembly elected Tedros over Dr. David Nabarro of Britain, a United Nations veteran, in a third and final round of voting.

The candidates are Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a 52-year-old former government minister in Ethiopia; Sania Nishtar, a 54-year-old cardiologist and former government minister from Pakistan; and David Nabarro, 67, a physician and longtime United Nations official from Britain.

The new elect swept 133 votes and two abstentions over his main rival Nabarro who only secured 50 votes in an election eligible 185 member States of the total 194 WHO's member States cast ballots. In the first round of voting, he led with 95 votes, more than the votes for the candidates from the United Kingdom and Pakistan combined.

Chan leaves a mixed legacy after her 10 years on the job, especially because of WHO's slow response to West Africa's Ebola epidemic in 2013-2016, which killed 11,300 people.

Ethiopia Foreign Ministry spokesman termed Ghebreyesus' election to the top post as a "victory for Africa and Ethiopia".

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Nabarro, a WHO insider who has worked for 40 years in worldwide public health, had pitched himself as a "global candidate".

Tedros said that one of WHO's ability to respond to risky disease outbreaks had improved following the blunders it made during the response to the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, but that more work was still necessary.

World Health Organization must evolve to be more transparent, responsive, effectively managed, adequately resourced. Despite winning by a wide margin, the former minister of health's campaign for the leadership was also marked by concerns over human rights. "Precisely the same thing is needed to make World Health Organization effective providing technical guidance and improving support to countries".

The WHO director-general wields considerable power in setting medical priorities that affect billions of people and declaring when disease outbreaks evolve into global emergencies. Before the last-minute attacks, British Conservative party politician Andrew Mitchell said Tedros was the best candidate to help developing countries make health gains - and also to protect the world against pandemics.

Former head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden, supported Tedros against charges that he had covered up an epidemic in Ethiopia.

Spokesman for the Ethiopian Community in Switzerland, Shimeles Bezabih, told DW that Tedros' appointment is a positive step in light of his previous work.

In his appeal to voters, Tedros noted that when he was growing up in Ethiopia, his 7-year-old brother died of a common childhood disease, and it easily could have been him instead.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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