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WHO D-G, Ghebreyesus, re-elected

Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus

By Cecilia Ologunagba

The Member States of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday re-elected Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus to serve a second five-year term as Director-General of the world’s leading public health agency.

First elected in 2017, his re-election by secret ballot, was confirmed during the 75th World Health Assembly in Geneva. He was the sole candidate.

The vote was the culmination of an election process that began in April 2021 when Member States were invited to submit proposals for candidates for the post of Director-General.

The WHO Executive Board, meeting in January, nominated Ghebreyesus to stand for a second term.

His re-election was met with wide and loud applause from ministers and others at the Assembly in Geneva.

According to news reports he received 155 out of 160 votes cast, although he did not win the support of his native Ethiopia, due to opposing views over the Tigray conflict.

The WHO chief’s new mandate officially commences on Aug. 16.

A Director-General can be re-appointed once, in accordance with World Health Assembly rules and procedures.

In a tweet following the vote, Ghebreyesus said he was “humbled and honoured” by the vote of confidence, adding that he was “deeply grateful for the trust and confidence of Member States.”

“I thank all health workers and my WHO colleagues around the world,” saying that he was looking forward to “continuing our journey together.”

In remarks after the vote, he said his re-election was a vote of confidence in the whole WHO adding: “this is for the whole team.”

He acknowledged the pressure and attacks from “many quarters” during the pandemic, saying that despite the insults and attacks, he and the organisation always kept an open mind and did not take it personally.

“We have to focus on promoting health…number two, we have to focus on primary healthcare” and thirdly, he cited the importance of emergency preparedness and response, being dependent on the first two priorities.

During his first term, he instituted a wide-ranging transformation of the WHO, the agency said in a press release.

WHO said the transformation was aimed at increasing the Organisation’s efficiency driving impact at country level to promote healthier lives, protect more people in emergencies and increase equitable access to health.

The director-general guided WHO’s response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, where he sometimes faced criticism, most notably, from former U.S. President, Donald Trump, who took the decision to withdraw the U.S. from the WHO – a move since reversed.

The WHO chief also steered the response to outbreaks of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and led the agency dealing with the health impacts of multiple other humanitarian crises, most recently the war in Ukraine.

Before first being appointed WHO Director-General, Ghebreyesus served as Minister of Foreign Affairs for Ethiopia between 2012 and 2016 and as Minister of Health prior to that, from 2005.

He had also served as chair of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; as chair of the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership Board; and as co-chair of the Board of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)

Edited by Chidinma Agu/Salif Atojoko