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Ethiopian Doctor Becomes First African WHO DG

Dr Tedros is the first African WHO Director General
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is the first African WHO Director General

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus from Ethiopia will be the next director general of the World Health Organization, WHO.

He will be the first African to head the UN agency, after winning the most votes from 186 member states.

He replaces Margaret Chan, who will step down from her 10-year post at the end of June.

During Chan’s tenure, the WHO’s response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa was criticised for being too slow.

The agency was accused of missing key warning signs about the severity of the outbreak that began in December 2013 and ultimately killed more than 11,000 people.

Addressing the World Health Assembly shortly before the vote, the new WHO chief promised to respond to future emergencies “rapidly and effectively”.

He also promised to stand up for the rights of the poor.

“All roads should lead to universal health coverage. I will not rest until we have met this,” he said.

52-year-old Tedros is married with five children and lives in Ethiopia. He had at different times served as Ethiopia’s minister of health and foreign affairs as well as chairman of the board of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria

He is also an internationally recognised malaria researcher, with a PhD in community health.

Tedros’ election was not without controversy as he was recently accused of covering up three cholera epidemics in Ethiopia, but his supports say this is untrue.

The new WHO DG said his vision was of “a world in which everyone can lead healthy and productive lives, regardless of who they are or where they live”.

He told delegates at the World General Assembly: “I promise I will get up every day, determined to make a difference… I am ready to serve.”

His top five priorities in his new job are: Advancing universal health coverage; ensuring WHO responds rapidly and effectively to disease outbreaks and emergencies; putting the wellbeing of women, children and adolescents at the centre of global health and development; helping nations address the effects of climate change on health and making the agency transparent and accountable.

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