The Ethiopian who aims to lead WHO: Support and criticisms trail

Ethiopia’s Tedros Adhanom, is aiming to lead the United Nations (UN) global health outfit, the World Health Organization (WHO).

He will be the first African to hold the post. As election date (May 22) draws closer, support for the former Foreign Affairs and Health Minister keeps pouring in but there is a tinge of controversy also.

The latest support for his candidature is the Slovak government according to the state-affiliated FANA Broadcasting corporate. He is also said to have gained the support of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States.

WHO is at a crossroads and requires a determined reformer. We are calling on all WHO Member States and regional country groups to support and vote for Dr Tedros.

The African Union has expressly endorsed him as the continent’s choice with the most recent show of support coming from African ambassadors to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, where the vote will be held.

“Dr Tedros is the best candidate for the next WHO Director-General because he is the only one who has designed, implemented and led the reform of an entire health system and in addition to his transformative leadership, he is a man of integrity and humility who is most loved and respected by the people and the communities he serves,’’ said Jean-Marie Ehouzou, Ambassador of the African Union to the United Nations.

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“WHO is at a crossroads and requires a determined reformer. We are calling on all WHO Member States and regional country groups to support and vote for Dr Tedros,” he added.

Even though he is touted as having dramatically changed the face of Ethiopia’s health care system during his tenure as Health Minister between 2005 and 2012, that is exactly where the biggest controversy is coming from.

A recent report released by Larry Gostin of Georgetown Law School disclosed that under Tedros’ reign and chief health officer of the Horn of Africa country, the Ethiopian government covered up a cholera outbreak, at the time referring to it as an acute watery diarrhea.

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The allegations by Gostin, who specializes in public health law and is a WHO consultant and prominent health scholar has been marked as ‘unsubstantiated.’

But with barely days to the vote it is seen as being capable of dealing a blow to the chances to Tedros. Watchers say the race is largely between him and Dr. David Nabarro of Britain.

The third candidate is Dr. Sania Nishtar, a Pakistani physician. The winner of the vote will be replacing Dr. Margaret Chan.

The Director-General is WHO’s chief technical and administrative officer and oversees the organization’s international health work. The current Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, was appointed in 2006 and will complete her second term on 30 June next year.

On his official Twitter handle, Dr. Tedros keeps retweeting endorsements by fellow health professionals and other politicians. But on the side also there are opponents who keep a campaign that he is unfit to manage the global health body.

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