Before the new Director-General begins to face WHO & its dilemmas, Thursday was a night out in an exclusively Tigrean celebration

26 May

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)


In an article giving a good sense of what to expect in the World Health Organization (WHO) in the coming months and years and, following the election of Dr. Tedros Adhanom as Director-General, author Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) on May 25, 2017 wrote:

“For the first time in its seventy-year history, the World Health Organization (WHO) will, effective July 1, be led by a nonphysician, an African, and a person from the global South. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia campaigned in an unprecedented election that gave 186 nations equal voice and saw three globetrotting candidates plead their cases.”


Regarding relations between Ethiopia and the United States, Laurie Garrett remarks:

“But relations between the United States and Ethiopia are complicated. The Obama administration saw Ethiopia as a bulwark against the Islamic State, al-Shabab, and other terrorist groups in the region. However, Ethiopia’s human rights record—particularly regarding the people of its Ogaden region, ethnic minorities, and journalists—has long been terrible. Most recently, the country attempted to outlaw the activities of U.S. and other foreign NGOs offering legal and humanitarian services there.”


The US, we are told, is giving priority to health security. In that regard, she writes:

“For the administration of U.S. President Donald J. Trump, which initially backed Britain’s Dr. David Nabarro for the WHO job, the World Health Assembly marked its first highly public foray into global health. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, a third-generation physician, journeyed to Liberia before coming to the WHO gathering in Geneva, touring facilities used during the 2014 Ebola epidemic.

In his public remarks on several occasions, both in Liberia and to the World Health Assembly, Price emphasized security concerns over outbreaks, epidemics, and bioterrorism. The WHO needs “to pursue a focused response to global health emergencies. That must be its number one priority,” he told the Assembly. “We expect the next director-general to prioritize such threats, including pandemic influenza.” In another speech at the Geneva gathering, Price stressed: “Global health security is an absolute priority for the United States.”


“Tedros, in contrast, has repeatedly said, “All roads lead to universal health coverage,” or UHC, which he named his top priority for the world. Building WHO’s capacity to respond to outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics ranks second on the director-general-elect’s priority list. In particular, Tedros will need to meet the African continent’s very high expectations of his office. As African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat put it in an Africa Day celebration in Geneva on the eve of the WHO vote, “This is Africa’s moment. The future is African.”

Tedros may be in for an awfully rude awakening as he works with his transition team to create a new set of WHO managers and new systems of operation. At the top of his list of challenges is money.”

Those interested the full article on CFR page

In noting Dr. Tedros campaign platform as an African candidate, in giving friendly advice to the incoming Director-General, in an ‘Offline message’, Richard Horton, The Lancet’s Editor, counsels:

“[U]se what you have—an influential network of regional and country offices—to translate your values and priorities into tangible actions and results. Finally, stick to your deepest and most heartfelt principles. You said last week that health is a rights issue. Indeed, it is. Challenge every Head of State to make it so.

You take over WHO at a difficult moment in its history. Ebola left the agency bruised and apologetic. You must rebuild trust and confidence in the organisation. That means recognising WHO’s special strengths. There are three. Science. Evidence is a political instrument. The global health research community is your friend. Use us. Make us part of WHO’s wider work. We may not always agree with you. But science and the accumulation of reliable knowledge are a powerful means of resistance to the forces that undermine health. Convening power. Whatever the critics of global institutions might say— and they are today in the ascendancy—WHO’s ability to use its moral leadership to accelerate progress on health remains undiluted. Your predecessors have often been risk averse in leading the international community. The mantra of serving member states has made the agency fearful, defensive, overcautious, reactive, weak, craven, timid, unimaginative, pusillanimous, and even paranoid. Be courageous. The voice of the voiceless. Politics—and health—is about people. WHO represents those who have no voice. “

The latter is what the world has to closely investigate and determine, unlike his past, whether the new WHO Director-General could be a leader who would not be afraid to tell truth to power, as the distinguished editor of the Lancet Richard Horton put it not long ago:


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