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New director general WHO, Dr Tedros, takes charge

Dr Ghebreyesus succeeds China’s Dr Margaret Chan, who headed the organization for two terms spanning a decade.

health Updated: Jul 01, 2017 19:27 IST
Ethiopia’s Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus took charge as director general WHO on July 1.
Ethiopia’s Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus took charge as director general WHO on July 1.(AFP Photo)

The new director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, officially took charge as the head of the UN health agency on Saturday, July 1.

The 52-year-old, Ghebreyesus, who is from Ethiopia, is the first African to head WHO, and will take office for a five-year term.

He succeeds China’s Dr Margaret Chan, who headed the organization for two terms spanning a decade.

Election of the new WHO Director-General took place through a secret ballot on May 23 this year at the World Health Assembly that opened in Geneva on May 22.

Nearly 3,500 delegates from WHO’s 194 member states, including a large proportion of the world’s health ministers, participated in the health assembly.

Ghebreyesus was selected among the three final nominees for the position, including Dr David Nabarro of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Dr Sania Nishtar of Pakistan.

It was the first time that WHO director-general was chosen by the World Health Assembly from among multiple candidates. Previously a single nominee had been chosen by the executive board.

Ghebreyesus served as Ethiopia’s minister of health from 2005-2012 and also as the minister of foreign affairs from 2012-2016. He was also chair of the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership Board, and co-chair of the board of the partnership for maternal, newborn and child health.

Ghebreyesus as the minister of health led a comprehensive reform effort of the country’s health system, including the expansion of the country’s health infrastructure and initiated financing mechanisms to expand health insurance coverage.

As the Ethiopian foreign minister, he was also involved in the negotiations for the Addis Ababa Action Agenda in which 193 countries committed to the financing necessary to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals spearheaded by the UN.

He secured record funding for the 2 organisations as the chair of the Global Fund and of RBM and created the Global Malaria Action Plan that expanded RBM’s reach beyond Africa to Asia and Latin America.