Ethiopia's Tedros re-elected to lead WHO for a second term

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 

Photo credit: AFP

What you need to know:

  • Tedros, a former Ethiopian Health minister and Foreign Affairs minister, is the first African to head the WHO. He was first elected as WHO director-general on May 23, 2017.

Ethiopian Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was on Tuesday re-elected as head of the World Health Organization, for a second five-year.

The director-general received more than two-thirds of votes cast in the secret ballot, with 155 votes for him out of the 160 cast. Tedros was the only nominee.

The Ethiopian former minister of health and of foreign affairs has become a familiar face worldwide as he spearheads the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 57-year-old malaria expert has also increasingly been sounding the alarm over the heavy toll that conflicts like the war in Ukraine are taking on global health.

After accepting his re-election, Tedros made an impassioned and personal plea for peace.

 With a trembling voice, he pointed out that he himself was "a child of war... from a poor family".

He recalled experiencing conflict at a very young age, and also losing his younger brother to disease due to a lack of access to medicine.

"That I was spared was just pure luck. It could have been me, I could have died more than 50 years ago," he said, describing how the strong emotions from that time rushed back during a recent visit to Ukraine.

 "When I saw the kids, it was the image from more than 50 years ago that came to my mind, so visible, so haunting, the smell of war, the sound of war, the image of war," he told the World Health Assembly.

"That's what I don't want to happen to anyone. So I hope peace will come."

In the run up to the new election, Tedros gained global support to head WHO for a second term after championing the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last year, when deadline for nominations elapsed, Germany officially nominated Tedros and sought support from other European Union member states.

Later, at least 17 EU members, backed by countries in other regions, formally nominated Tedros for his re-election.

African countries, with the exception of his home country Ethiopia, have broadly supported Tedros who fought for more access of Covid-19 vaccines to Africa.

In September, last year, the director-general called for vaccine equity globally.  

“More than 5.7 billion doses have been administered globally, but only 2% of those have been administered in Africa,” Tedros said at a press conference on September 14, 2021.

“This does not only hurt the people of Africa; it hurts all of us. The longer vaccine inequity persists, the more the virus will keep circulating and changing, the longer the social and economic disruption will continue, and the higher the chances that more variants will emerge that render vaccines less effective,” he added. 

Additional reporting by AFP

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