As the Director-General of WHO, Tedros faces a slew of challenges as he takes the helm of a sprawling organization with more than 7,000 employees in 150 countries

By Salem Solomon & Henok Semaegzer (VOA) |

African delegates celebrated with ululations and high-fives when Ethiopia’s Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was elected Director-General of the World Health Organization earlier this week in Geneva. Now, Tedros faces a slew of challenges as he takes the helm of a sprawling organization with more than 7,000 employees in 150 countries, responsible for improving health care around the world.

Tedros, who goes by his first name, won by a clear majority, defeating British and Pakistani candidates in the first WHO election decided by member countries. He will become the first African to head the WHO when he takes the reins July 1.

“In our view, this victory is a victory for Ethiopia. It is a victory for Africa and a victory for Dr. Tedros personally,” Meles Alem, an Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, told VOA’s Amharic service.

“Dr. Tedros will focus on promoting universal coverage, ensuring the health of women and children, and expansion of health in tandem with climate, which [is disproportionately] affecting Africa as compared to the developed world.”

Funding challenges

Tedros will inherit an agency with a funding shortfall of approximately $2.2 billion. The WHO has seen dramatic cuts from traditional donors such as the United States.

“Its budget has been cut radically year after year, after year,” Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, told VOA. She said donations that once went to the WHO now go to other health-related agencies such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

“In a sense, they’re competing for resources and for the support of governments generally and, specifically, for the support of the most powerful governments in the world, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, China and Germany,” Garrett said.

Continue reading this story at Voice of America (VOA)
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