GENEVA May 23 World Health Organization member
states began voting on Tuesday for the next director-general,
with an Ethiopian candidate vying to be the first African to
head the United Nations agency.
The three candidates made their final pitches to run the WHO
which is tasked with combating outbreaks and chronic diseases.
Margaret Chan, a former Hong Kong health director who has
led the WHO for 10 years, steps down on June 30 leaving a mixed
legacy after WHO's slow response to West Africa's Ebola epidemic
in 2013-2016 which killed 11,300 people.
Health ministers from 186 states have a choice of three
nominees to replace Chan as director-general - Tedros Adhanom
Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia, David Nabarro of Britain and Sania
Nishtar of Pakistan. The voting may continue for several rounds,
with a winner expected late on Tuesday.
The first to address the World Health Assembly was the
former Ethiopian foreign minister and health minister
universally known as Dr Tedros, who appealed to ministers by
promising to represent their interests and to ensure more
countries got top jobs at the Geneva-based WHO.
“I will listen to you. I was one of you. I was in your shoes
and I can understand you better,” Tedros told the ministers. “I
know what it takes to strengthen the frontlines of healthcare
and innovate around the constraints.”
Tedros, widely seen as having an in-built advantage because
he can call on about 50 African votes, would be the first
African head of the WHO.
Voting, however, is secret and questions about Tedros' role
in restricting human rights in Ethiopia may have tarnished his
Nabarro, a WHO insider who has worked for 40 years in
international public health, dexcribed himself as a "global
"Some of you told me that at times you have felt let down by
the WHO, you want it to be more relevant, responsive and
reliable. Under my leadership it will be," he said.
Nishtar, a cardiologist, civil society activist and former
minister, presented herself as able to deal with all
stakeholders at a time when WHO was at a "crossroads".
"My hands are clean coming out of this election and I have
the ability to accelerate reforms you have championed," she
said. "This will be your historic vote to put health above
(Editing by Ed Osmond)