Abu-Jahlil Astrid Chacha for Milwaukee Community Journal
On May 23th, 2017 after two years of a rude battle, Doctor Tedros was elected by the 70th world assembly of the World Health Organization in Geneva as the new director of this specialized agency of the United Nations which is one of the most powerful of the United Nations system. With 133 points, Doctor Tedros could beat in the third round of the elections two others candidates, the British Doctor, 50 points and the Pakistanese Doctor Sania Nishtar. This election is said to be historical because it was the first time three candidates could really challenge democratically and brought victory to an African. Traditionally, one person was chosen by the executive council and applauded by the assembly. Doctor Tedros focused his campaign on his own history with an argument which convinced the African members of the assembly to vote for him. He related that when he was teen, his brother died from a lack of drugs in Ethiopia. His brother as he explained could be saved if more drugs were available in his country. So he is motivated to work so no one could die from a lack of drugs. He precisely said “ I refuse that people die because they are poor ”.
African members of the assembly and African Union supported his vision and voted for him. So, on July 1rst, 2017, Doctor Tedros replacing Chinese Doctor Margaret Chan who ruled the institution since 2007 January starts his mission for five years.
Born in Erythrea, father of five children, he is 52 years old, graduated of the Asmara University in Community Public Health. He is recognized for his eloquent researches against Malaria. From 2005 to 2012, he was Ethiopia Government health minister. From 2012 to 2016, he was foreign affairs minister. He was also President of the World Fund Against Aids, Tuberculosis, Malaria and the campaign Make malaria go down. He has been co-president of the campaign for Mother Health, new-born and child.
As health minister, he realized a complete reform of Ethiopia health system creating 3,500 cure centers, 16,000 jobs and the training of 38, 000 new persons for a national health campaign. He could obtain important funds for the anti-malaria world campaign with profits for Asia and Latina America. After his studies, he is recruited in 1986 under the dictatorship regime of Mengitsu Haile Mariam as junior expert for the health Ministry. When the Mengitsu regime broke down, Tedros flight to London to continue his studies in immunology and infectious diseases. He got a Ph. D in public health at Nottingham University. He particularly took interest in studying the effects of dams in the transmission of malaria in the Tigré Northern region of Ethiopia and the best methods of control.
Consequently, he is named Tigré health office director and then health minister by ancient died prime minister Meles Zewani.
As foreign affairs minister, he negociated with 193 countries to get involved with huge finance in the Addis Abeba Action Program to reach the aims of sustainable development.
Dr Tedros election is congratulated by many organizations and personalities worldwide who shared their opinions and testimonies about the long experience work of the WHO new director.
“It’s a great day for Ethiopia and Africa”, said Ethiopia ambassador in United Nations, Sir Negash Kibret.
Dr Set Berkley, the chief executive officer of Gavi, l’Alliance du Vaccin, a non-governmental organization rejoiced for Dr Tedros election who was years ago member of the administration council of Gavi.
The African Union formally in its official declaration called this election “a historical victory ”. The Ethiopian researcher Abebe Aynete has positive regards to the coming up of Dr Tedros. “ He has skills of a true leader ”, he added.
Teges Yilma, chief editor of Ethiopian weekly journal Capital related “ his results are impressive, he has a good profile to manage this institution”.
Curiously, many voices raised to worry about Dr Tedros election.
Reeyot Alemu is a journalist who has been enjailed in Ethiopia more than four years. Living today in Usa, she describes Dr Tedros as “one of the worst enemy of human rights ”. In a official letter to the WHO, she criticizes the lack of medical care in Ethiopian prison and the refusal by prison guards to give her drugs against pain unless she had been diagnosed a breast tumor.
Dr Frank Ashall, chief executive officer of Africa Tobacco-Free Initiative thinks that Dr Tedros is more a politician than a health program specialist. He denounced Dr Tedros support to a agreement between Japan Tobacco International group and ethiopian government instead of the WHO struggle against tobacco business.
Lawrence Gostin, a public health specialist, has accused Dr Tedros to have kept silence around three cholera epidemics in 2006, 2009, 2011 and mentioned only symptom of acute watery diarrhea, a vocabulary used to qualify the cholera epidemic which is devastating today the Somali region in south-eastern Ethiopia.
Some observers are pessimistic for Dr Tedros looking to these crisis. They think Dr Tedros election won’t show a good image for the WHO, institution often object of complain for lack of transparency and efficiency. For example, the WHO could not face ebola’s epidemic which killed 11,000 people in West Africa between 2013 and 2016. Dr Margaret Chan, in a speech admitted the WHO failure in front of Ebola epidemic. “ Everybody, even WHO, had been surprised by ebola “, she declared. The Usa health minister Tom Pricese insisted that the WHO must operate in transparency in the use of financial resources and give clear issues of its actions results.
Dr Tedros promised to the WHO assembly to realize change. “ I promise to work consistently to make universal health insurance become a reality , to develop strong capacities of reaction in emergency situations, for more health and autonomy for countries. Transparency will be in the heart of the WHO ”.
All hope of concrete success to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a world dangerously in crisis in all the aspects of life, with a black continent locked in lot of public health disasters.