Dr. Tedros Adhanom, “Together for a Healthier World”

“I envision a world where everyone can lead healthy and productive lives, regardless of who they are or where they live.” Dr. Tedros’s vision if he is elected to be the Director General of the World Health Organization.

This year 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) is going to elect a new Director-General. In the beginning stage, WHO member states designated six candidates for the Director-General position. Among the chosen candidates, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Ethiopian Former Health and Foreign Affairs Minister, respectively is the most likely. On January 25, the WHO Executive Board has also shortlisted and announced three candidates of which Dr. Tedros has got the highest vote and became among the three stated candidates where the World Health Assembly will pick in May 2017 to succeed Margaret Chan.

In its 70 years existence, the WHO will have the first African Director-General that is if Dr. Tedros is elected. This will have tremendous impact for the WHO legitimacy that Africa whose population reached over 1 billion will be part of it. Note that Dr. Tedros is endorsed by the African Union to run for the WHO Director-Generalship representing one billion people of Africa. These are substantial responsibilities and confirm that the African candidate is continentally accepted person.

The three potential candidates have presented a vision for how they will lead the WHO. But, I fairly believe that Dr Tedros with proven technical, professional and diplomatic skills is the most qualified appropriate one for the WHO. My opinion is based on three considerations. These are basic criteria for such a global organization. The candidate’s earlier record and current huge achievements, leadership quality, and the differences he would bring to the organization are the most points that member of the WHO countries should consider seriously.

Photo - Tedros Adhanom, WHO Director-General Candidate
Photo – Tedros Adhanom, WHO Director-General Candidate

Background of Dr Tedros Adhanom

Born in 1965, in Asmara, Eritrea, the former northern province of Ethiopia, he is the youngest Ethiopian former Health and Foreign Affairs Minister, respectively, who contributed in the ongoing all rounded developments in the country.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom is an African Union endorsed Candidate who is running for Director-Generalship of the World Health Organization and has gone through ups and downs to reach where he is now. In the academic side, Dr. Tedros holds a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in community Health from the University of Nottingham and a Master of Science (MSc) in Immunology of Infectious Diseases from the University of London (UK).

Moreover, he is a globally recognized health scholar and researcher and has demonstrated various outstanding achievements in the health sector which in turn have saved millions of citizens out of severe disease related deaths. The young scholar and effective leader co-edited the widely acclaimed book “The Labor Market for Health Workers in Africa: A New Look at the Crisis” which challenges the already established views on the migration of Doctors from the continent -Africa. He has also produced several book chapters on important topics on how to address health partnerships through country ownership.

Major International Awards

The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene recognized him as the young Investigator of the year for his community-based researcher on malaria incidence among children living near dams in northern Ethiopia, which was published in the British Medical Journal. In addition, Dr. Tedros was the first non American Recipient of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Humanitarian Award, in recognition of his contributions to the field of public health. He was also named as one of the 50 people who will change the world’ by the UK Wired Magazine in 2012 and one of the 100 Most influential Africans’ by New Africa Magazine in 2015. In 2016, he received the award for Perseverance from Women Deliver, in recognition of his contributions to women’s health.

Achievements as Ethiopian Minister of Health and Foreign Affairs

Taking the three stated criteria into consideration, Dr. Tedros has an established track record of transformational accomplishments in Ethiopia and elsewhere he worked in. During the years 2005 to 2012 as Ethiopian Health Minister; he established fairly strong health institutions by applying scientific methods and assigning young and health trained citizens to the appropriate position. Thus, in Ethiopia, he is known as the young Minister who transformed and brought fundamental positive achievements in the health sectors which in turn have eliminated considerable number of diseases. He practically ensured the welfare of all of the country’s citizens and realized the country’s visions to reduce children mortality, birth related women deaths and eliminated a number of diseases which were killing millions of people before he introduced new health system and strengthened primary-care services throughout the country both at towns and countryside fairly making every citizen should have access to health centers. It was him for the first time in history of the country that created 3,500 health centers and 16,000 health posts, and dramatically expanded the health-care workforce by building more medical schools and deploying more 38,000 community-based health extension workers.

Dr. Tedros’s success in disease elimination efforts, his efforts to prevent disease by self-cleaning and sanitations, his effective leadership to reduce maternal deaths during delivery both in rural and town areas, his success in reducing malaria, HIV Aids and sexually transmitted diseases are taken as model in most Africa countries and beyond. He is the only one among the candidates to achieve such results at a national level.

He is also a longtime champion and advocate of gender equality and the rights of women and girls. In fact, his efforts to strengthen Ethiopia’s health system played a crucial role in more than doubling the percentage of Ethiopian women with access to contraception, and in reducing maternal mortality by 75%. As a result Ethiopia is now among the few countries who are achieving the intended UN Millennium Goals in the world. Thanks to him, Ethiopians are much better off today. Health problem is not as much a headache as it was to the country.

Dr. Tedros is a globally known diplomat. Taking these qualities into consideration, Ethiopian government appointed him to be Foreign Minister in 2012, where he served until 2016. During his stay in office as foreign Minister, the investment, tourism, and diplomatic flow to Ethiopia increased qualitatively and quantitatively. To put it shortly, he established the Foreign Ministry to be a center of peaceful coexistence in the Horn of Africa and beyond. He introduced new system which can serve fairly for all employees. Thus his staff admire him. He was also a champion of peace and development in the African Union, and IGAD countries. He managed wisely and honestly the complicated horn of Africa affairs. He managed Ethiopia to have peaceful ties with Somalia, Djibouti, South Sudan, Kenya and Sudan. He gained extensive diplomatic experience, not least by leading negotiations for the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the international community’s plan to finance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This same knack for diplomacy is now needed to bring WHO member states together for cooperative action on collective health challenges.

“Dr. Tedros’s leadership style is also perfectly suited for this role: he speaks last, and encourages others to share their views. He also knows how to spot and nurture talent, and how to bring the best out of the people around him. He would undoubtedly boost organizational morale and motivate the staff to deliver maximum value and efficiency – to the benefit of all member states and their citizens. And while he is a receptive listener, he is also decisive, which is an attribute for the leader of the world’s foremost health institution, especially during global public-health emergencies”, says one westerner friend of him.

Then there is Dr. Tedros’s extensive leadership experience within global health institutions. As Board Chair of the Global Fund to Fight HIV AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria between 2009 and 2011, and as Chair of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership between 2007 and 2009, Dr. Tedros pushed through sweeping changes that dramatically improved both organizations’ operations. What’s more, he helped them raise record-breaking financial commitments from donors: $11.7 billion for the Global Fund and $3 billion for Roll Back Malaria.

This is precisely the kind experience and expertise that the WHO needs in today’s global health environment. And, it gives details why the African Union has officially endorsed Dr. Tedros’s candidacy. Amazingly, in its almost 70-year history, the WHO has never had a Director-General from Africa. This fact alone is not a reason to pick a candidate. However, Dr. Tedros has special experience and qualities which the rest never have. His direct experience working in developing countries affected by complicated health problems makes him uniquely qualified to tackle our toughest global health problems, which tend to hit developing countries the hardest.

We live in ever changing world, and WHO must be able to change with it. The young African with proven diplomatic, leadership and technical expertise qualities will make huge difference and will be an asset to the globally challenging health related problem. The world needs such young, well educated and with a proven track records of success!


Zeray hailemariam Abebe is a scholar of International Relations and is researcher in the horn of Africa’s conflict, inter-state relations and cooperation. He blogs at HornAffairs and can be reached at [email protected]

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