An African leader for global health?

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Comments (16) Africa, Featured, Leaders


The African Union supports Ethiopian Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to become the first head of the World Health Organization from the continent.

With Africa bearing much of the brunt of disease globally, who better to lead the United Nation’s World Health Organization than an expert from the continent?

That is the reasoning as the African Union throws its support behind the candidacy of Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Ethiopia’s foreign minister and former health minister. As Africa recovers from the recent Ebola epidemic, an official from the continent would bring the perspective of someone who has seen its health problems on the ground.

U.N. members will choose a new WHO leader in May 2017 and the campaigning is well under way. Tedros is one of three candidates for the top post. The others are Phillippe Douste-Blazy, a former foreign minister and health minister from France, and Sania Nishtar, a former minister of health and education from Pakistan.

The 8,000-person health agency was founded by the United Nations after World War II to set global health policy and tackle major health emergencies. It has the authority to spur urgent drug development and push governments to fund essential drugs, as well as to declare public health emergencies.

“Someone with fresh experience from Africa can bring you a fresh view,” Tedros said.

Ethiopian growth cited

Tedros points to Ethiopia’s economic growth, as well as achievements in improving health care. He cites his government’s quick reaction to the region’s current drought, which avoided famine.

He said his experience reforming Ethiopia’s health system and reorganizing finances of the Global Fund supported his qualifications for the World Health Organization job.

Tedros became minister of foreign affairs in Ethiopia in 2012 after serving as health minister since 2005. He has also served in leadership roles in federal and regional government.

Tedros as minister of foreign affairs in Ethiopia

Tedros as minister of foreign affairs in Ethiopia

He earned a Ph.D. in community health and a master’s degree in immunology. He began his career in health in 1986. In addition to being the first African leader of the agency if he is elected, Tedros would be the first who is not a medical doctor.

Renowned for malaria research

A globally recognized researcher on malaria, he published a study of the incidence of malaria among children living near dams in northern Ethiopia, a key contribution to the field in 1999, and was named ‘‘Young Investigator of the Year’’ by the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. He was the first non-American to receive the “Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Humanitarian Award” in 2011 for significant achievements in improving human health.

According to the Global Fund, Ethiopia’s health programs are well managed and report significant achievements, including a 50 percent drop in the incidence of HIV and an even greater drop in AIDs-related deaths.

Still, Tedros’ tenure as health minister was not without controversy. Several groups of Ethiopians living abroad are opposing his candidacy, citing his refusal to declare a cholera epidemic when he was health minister that led to thousands of deaths. Tedros responded that the deaths could have had many causes, but a report said laboratory checks confirmed cholera was the cause.

The ministry also had to return $6 million to the Global Fund amid accusations that funds to fight HIV were misspent on health clinics. Tedros denied the money was misspent. He said the funds were returned because they were spent after a deadline had passed.

African Union backs candidacy

The African Union endorsed his candidacy in January.

“He is Africa’s candidate,” said Abdelmalek Boudiaf, Algeria’s health minister.

Margaret Chan, the current WHO chief, said half the regions of the world had never had one of their own leading the health agency. Eight chiefs have come from Europe, the Americas or the Western Pacific, which includes China and Japan.

The French candidate, Douste-Blazy, dismisses the importance of geopolitics, saying strong leadership ability is the key.

Sania Nishtar, the Pakistani candidate, said the argument for an African leader could just as easily apply to South Asia.

Vote “a nail biter”

Geopolitics could give the African candidate an edge in the voting. This year, for the first time, each of the U.N.’s 194 members gets a vote rather than the executive board making the selection.  With 54 states, the continent will account for more than a quarter of the votes.

Still, in spite of the backing of the African Union, delegates from at least two West African nations that are former French colonies said they preferred the French candidate.

Nothing is certain. “It will be a nail biter,” said Suerie Moon, research director at Harvard Global Health Institute.

16 Responses to An African leader for global health?

  1. Asefa Hafte Hailu says:

    I support about this an intelectual person to be the Director General WHO . Because he did a good protection against polio , made good condition for pregnant womens to born in hospital to safe their life with health child and other diseases by organising health packages through out the country of Ethiopia & also he supports other african countries by sharing his methodologies. As a result he got different awards for his work. I wish to win the chance !!.

  2. odaa says:

    first of all i would like to appreciate the person who pick candidate from african continent but i don’t support Tedros as a candidate because not only as the time of his health minister but now there is sever problem of cholera in our country .
    as u mention above some ethiopian live abroad refuse this guys but we east african people live in africa refuse this dectator candidate
    As it known we oromo ethinic are largest in east africa but we don’t have a voice and people of eritrea and somalia are refuse this candidate because of suppressed by this candidate.
    as WHO how dictator candidate over take general official of WHO really sad for majority of east african community

  3. Haftom Mulu Hailemariam says:

    He is a very intelligent and very kind for all of the people, very committed and hard worker. He boosted Ethiopian health care system extremly, He deserves that position in WHO !!! I kindly support him.

  4. Hailay says:

    I strongly support Dr.Tedros Adhanom to be a General director of WHO because his success story and real change in Ethiopian ministry of health more over he is well known researcher in fighting malaria, he is beloved by Ethiopian peaple he deserve for this postion. My best wish for his success!

  5. Gashaw Shibabaw says:

    He is one of the most wonderful leader in Africa. He brought a significant result for the improvement of Health Conditions particularly in the area of HIV/ADIS and Malaria protection in Ethiopia. That is why Ethiopia achieved the milinnium goal in advance. He is also one of the best diplomats I have observe.Ethiopia At a result his country became one of the most influential leader in Africa in Peace keeping, Economic growth and became the most peaceful land. Therefore, Dr Tewdros is the best for WHO.

  6. Anwar Abdowaise says:

    I support Dr.Tedros for what he accomplished in Ethiopia.I personally think he will very beneficial to Africa’s health needs and advocacy.

  7. Esa says:

    “Two West African former French colonies preferred Frenench candidate…”

    Is this real? Still colonized? Shame!!!!! What a Garbage!? African nations voting for a European candidate, their colonial masters… 🙂

    I am prod of my great grandmother’s and fathers who kept us independent.

  8. joel says:

    i support dr tedros

  9. Abebe says:

    How world would choose person like Dr Tedros Adhanom, to tell the truth Dr Tedros one of the African dictator who support the mass killing of oromo people around 800 people only in 2016.

  10. samson says:

    how could a dictator like Dr . Tewodros be a leader og a prestigious organisation WHO. He even denied, with his colleagues, the right to get a medical treatment of an opposition figure.

  11. Dave says:

    He even does not allow an opponent politician (Habtamu Ayalew) to leave his country to get medical access for his sever sickness (which he picked it up from notorious prison camp for an unlawful detaination for his political ideology). Let alone the bigger continents, he is racist for his own people, Ethiopia. A killer and a servant of a dictatorial regime does not heal the world.


  12. Abebe says:

    If you are supporting the population reduction agenda in Africa support Tewodros Adhanom. He has long track record of ethnic cleansing the Amhara ethnic group of Ethiopia with diprovera to ethnic cleanse specific groups that are opposing his administration. Not only that, he is also have a long track history of genocide and mass killing of Ethiopian people that where opposing his political power. If the world and most importantly the people of Africa and African Union are supporting the devastation of mass biological weapon eradication program under his administration, go head and support him. We the people of Ethiopia only knows how immoral and money Hungary person Adhanom is!

  13. merihun girma says:

    I strong support Dr. tewodros adhanom to be a general director of WHO b/c his success story & real change in ethiopian ministry in health more over he is well known researcher in fighting malaria. he is beloved by ethiopian and all africans people he deserve for this position.

  14. endalk says:

    He is a great leader, he has the skill & quality that a leader should have to. He is a committed & hard worker person for what he believe & assigned, I think we shouldn’t deny his contribution to our country & only reflect our political interest. He deserve it…Good luck Dr Tewodros!

  15. Nigatu Mamo says:

    I am realy glad to write this letter for Dr. Tedros Adhanom, I know and obserbed how the health program in my country works the health extention workers in rural even in remote areas with regarding maternal mortality reduction, family planing, sanitation program, and others. He also set up the principle ” prevention better than cure.” That is why the health condotion improving in our country. And also as a foriegn minister, it is clear for everybody how can our diplomacy is in a better way we have good relationship with other country, many foriegn investers are coming in side. In general, he is the fittest and he can servive. He is a real leader and he is working for the people. Long live him!!!

  16. Eskinder says:

    If W.H.O even considers his candidacy, i highly doubt the legitimacy of W.H.O and what it stands for.

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