With less than a month to go before the World Health Assembly in Geneva, the three finalists for the Director General position are making their final campaign push – and perhaps none more so than Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
In recent days the highly visible Ethiopian candidate has penned an op-ed published in Fiji, emphasizing his top priority of universal health care, though more often he’s been the subject of the writing in London, New York and Madrid.
Tedros’ campaign has relied on aggressive social media outreach too, connecting with the people and public health issues from Myanmar to Greece to South Africa, and back home to East Africa.
Tedros, a specialist in malaria and other disease who holds a PhD in community health from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, served as Ethiopia’s health minister from 2005 to 2012 before becoming Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2012. He served in the latter position until 2016.
The African Union endorsed his candidacy a year ago, and he is the preferred candidate of African nations including the Togolese government and Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as other global organizations and leaders who advocate for choosing an African to take the helm at WHO.
In addition to Tedros, the finalists include Dr. Sania Nishtar, a cardiologist from Pakistan, and Dr. David Nabarro of Britain – both of whom are well-endorsed and have been working down to the wire as well.
Tedros was selected as a candidate finalist in January with the greatest number of votes, according to sources speaking to medical news outlet Stat. He’s done so in a process to replace outgoing director Margaret Chan that was changed following criticisms of WHO, including management of the Ebola crisis in 2014.
In the past, the executive board has presented a preferred candidate for a vote; this time, the 190 member nations have a broader choice, and will each cast a vote during the WHO Assembly, which begins on May 22.
Critics, however, have questioned his role in supporting Ethiopia’s repressive climate, which has received international attention particularly during an ongoing state of emergency.
The new WHO director will take office on July 1.