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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: First African To Win Top WHO Job

First Posted: May 24, 2017 05:52 AM EDT

The World Health Organization elected the first African to head the agency. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is a former Ethiopian health minister noted for marshalling an international response to disease epidemics, including Ebola and Zika.

According to The Washington Post, members of the World Health Assembly voted 133 to 50 in favor of Dr. Ghebreyesus during their third and final round of balloting in Geneva. He beat out 67-year-old physician and longtime UN official David Nabarro and 54-year-old cardiologist Sania Nishar from Pakistan.

This election comes at a critical time, as the agency experiences huge budget cuts over the years. It especially faced a lot of criticism for its slow and ineffective response for the 2014 Ebola epidemic that killed over 11,000 people in three West African countries.

Dr. Ghebreyesus or simply Tedros, as he is known, will be replacing Margaret Chan, who will be stepping down from her post of 10 years by the end of June. In an address in front of the World Health Assembly shortly before voting took place, BBC quoted Tedros to have promised a more rapid and effective response to future emergencies. He also vowed to stand up for the poor.

"All roads should lead to universal health coverage. I will not rest until we have met this."

But who is Tedros? Besides being the Ethiopian minister of health and foreign affairs, he also served as chairman of the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. He is an internationally recognized malaria researcher with a PhD in community health.

Although qualified for the post, his election is not without controversy. He was recently accused of covering up three cholera epidemics in Ethiopia, although there had been no solid evidence of this claim.

Among his priorities as head of WHO include advancing universal health coverage, ensuring rapid and effective responses to disease outbreaks and emergencies and moving to a more transparent and accountable agency.

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