Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the first African leader of WHO, hopes to expand healthcare access for the world’s poor. But his tenure as former Ethiopian health minister has not been without controversy.

(Deutsche Welle)―Health representatives of 186 countries gathered in Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday (May 23) to elect former Ethiopian foreign minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, usually known as Dr. Tedros, as the new director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Tedros had the powerful backing of the 55-nation African Union and was ultimately chosen over British medical doctor and long-serving UN envoy David Nabarro and Pakistani cardiologist Sania Nishtar for the top spot at the global health agency. Margaret Chan, the current head of WHO, will step down in June.

Tedros won 133 votes to Nabarro’s 50 in the third round of voting. His fellow countrymen could be seen hugging and exchanging high-fives shortly after he made it past the second round, in which Nishtar was eliminated.

The enthusiasm was echoed over social media, with many Ethiopians and other Africans praising the decision and expressing their optimism for future changes in the world health sector.

Tedros said on Wednesday he hoped US Congress would fund global health initiatives, despite the budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration. But he said the WHO would look for new donors.

“I am a strong believer that there should be an exit strategy, that means a gradual exit that avoids any shocks,” he said. “When there are finance cuts like this, the most affected are the poor.”

“We need to expand the donor base … If we have as many countries as possible who can contribute, it could be any amount, I think that will help,” Tedros added.

As director-general of WHO, Tedros will be responsible for deciding which medical issues will take priority and when crises like disease outbreaks will be treated as global emergencies.

He inherits the position at a time in which WHO has been criticized for its allegedly slow response to the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

Continue reading this story at Deutsche Welle
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