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

The newly-elected head of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, outlined his priorities for journalists at the agency's headquarters today in Geneva, where he stressed the need for Member States to provide healthcare for all and to implement global health regulations.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is a former Ethiopian health minister noted for marshalling an worldwide response to disease epidemics, including Ebola and Zika.

Ghebreyesus served as Ethiopia's minister of health from 2005-2012 and also as the minister of foreign affairs from 2012-2016. He received more than half the votes in the first round and then won a decisive second-round election, beating Britain's David Nabarro to the job. The third candidate, Pakistan's Dr. Sania Nishtar, was eliminated in the first round of voting.

Newly elected Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom waves during the 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, May 23, 2017.

He replaces Margaret Chan, who will step down from her 10-year post at the end of June.

Ethiopia Foreign Ministry spokesman termed Ghebreyesus' election to the top post as a "victory for Africa and Ethiopia".

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"This is a make or break time for the World Health Organization", the director of the Center for Humanitarian Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Paul Spiegel, said. The WHO said Tedros had led a "comprehensive reform effort" of Ethiopia's health system, creating health centres and jobs. WHO brings much needed technical knowledge, and expertise to the world and has the ability to mobilize global actors and resources.

The race began in 2015 and turned bitter at the very end, when an adviser to Dr Nabarro accused Dr Tedros of having covered up repeated outbreaks of cholera in his home country, which lowered the chances of an worldwide response and, more recently, the use of cholera vaccine. He promised reform of the WHO, which was strongly criticised around the world for failing to respond quickly enough to the Ebola epidemic in west Africa.

Health officials, including from Washington, a key WHO donor, said the agency's new leadership needed to get emergency response right.

He noted that when he was growing up in Ethiopia, his 7-year-old brother was killed by a common childhood disease, and it easily could have been him. Member states should up their funding commitment if they want a real decision-making power in the organization's future, he tells Devex.

In his address to delegates, Tedros, the only non-medical doctor in the race, said it was nearly "pure luck" that he was competing to lead WHO.

It has considerable influence in setting medical priorities that affect billions of people. "At the same time, WHO has a tremendous opportunity to accelerate recent advances in global health", he said, urging Tedros to prioritize policies and investments that improve the battle against HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, polio, and preventable maternal and child deaths.

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