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Secretary Price Congratulates New WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

24 May 2017

Ethiopia's Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has been elected as the new head of the World Health Organization (WHO), becoming the first African to lead the United Nations health agency.

The first one to fall by the wayside in January, when the WHO's executive board selected the finalists, was the Hungarian former health minister Dr Miklós Szócska, followed swiftly by Italy's Dr Flavia Bustreo and France's Professor Philippe Douste-Blazy.

In his final pitch for why he should lead the WHO, Tedros emphasized his experience as Ethiopia's health minister, overseeing the expansion of basic health services across the country.

Adhanom will begin his five-year term on July 1.

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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. Later he chaired the advisory committee set up by the outgoing WHO Director General Margaret Chan, which put in place a blueprint for reform.

Although some people see Dr Tedros as a controversial pick, many others point to his impressive CV and track record, and insist he is the best person to lead the world's "guardian of global health". WHO sets global health policy and advocates for improved living conditions, especially for the world's poor.

The former health minister has been dogged by allegations that he covered up cholera outbreaks in Ethiopia, and protesters have occasionally interrupted proceedings at the meeting in Geneva this week.

Speaking to the delegates, Nabarro said "the health of 7 billion people rests in your hands" and acknowledged that some have felt "let down" by WHO and want it to be "more relevant, responsive and reliable".

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Health officials from more than 180 countries have elected a new leader for the World Health Organization. Frieden wrote a letter published in the New York Times last week that commended Tedros for his creation of a network of 40,000 female health workers that implemented programs to save people from dying of diarrhea and other causes. As health minister, he drew praise for strengthening Ethiopia's health care workforce.

Nabarro cited lessons from the Ebola crisis that "speed and flexibility" are needed, but above all World Health Organization should be "competent and dependable".

Corrects this entry to say that he was seven years old. Nine others are either in arrears on their dues or not represented at the 10-day gathering.

The victor will succeed Dr. Margaret Chan, who's ending a 10-year tenure.

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The director-general of World Health Organization wields considerable power in setting medical priorities that affect billions of people and declaring when crises like disease outbreaks evolve into global emergencies.

Secretary Price Congratulates New WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus