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African elected as new WHO director general

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Ethiopia’s former health minister has been elected to serve as the next director-general of the World Health…

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Ethiopia’s former health minister has been elected to serve as the next director-general of the World Health Organisation, WHO.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, 52, is the first African picked to lead the global health agency. He will succeed Dr. Margaret Chan on July 1.

It took three rounds of secret-ballot voting for Tedros — who is known by his first name — to claim the top job on Tuesday. But from the start of balloting it was clear momentum was going his way.

He topped every vote, starting in January when the WHO’s executive board whittled a long list of six candidates down to the final three.

On Tuesday, he was the top vote-getter in a three-way faceoff, knocking Dr. Sania Nishtar, 54, of Pakistan, out of competition. He defeated Dr. David Nabarro, 67, of Britain in the final ballot, earning 133 votes to Nabarro’s 50.

After signing a contract and taking the oath of office, Tedros told the World Health Assembly — the annual meeting of WHO member countries — that he did a lot of listening as he crisscrossed the globe campaigning for the job. Among the things he heard: Countries want WHO to be more efficient and accountable, and the next director general needed focus his or her efforts on the most vulnerable of the world.

“I hear you and I will act on your messages,” he said. “Let’s get to work for a healthier world.”

Tedros will be the first non-physician to lead the WHO; he has a doctorate in community health. He served as Ethiopia’s health minister from 2005 to 2012 and is credited for innovative reforms to the health delivery system of a resource-poor country. Tedros has also served as chairman of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and was also at a point chairman of the Roll Back Malaria partnership board.

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