LONDON, May 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Tedros Adhanom
Ghebreyesus, a former health minister and foreign minister of
Ethiopia, on Tuesday won the race to become the next
director-general of the World Health Organisation.
Tedros becomes the first African to lead the U.N. agency.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation asked global health experts
and charity leaders what the new director-general should
ELHADJ AS SY, SECRETARY GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF RED
CROSS AND RED CRESCENT SOCIETIES (IFRC)
The new director-general (DG) must be ready to put people at the
centre and give local communities a seat at the global public
health table to work together to build a stronger, more
resilient and healthier world.
He will immediately be confronted by a range of urgent and
long-term public health challenges such as the devastating
health impact of food crises in Central and East Africa,
protracted complex crises that have all but destroyed health
systems in Syria, Yemen and parts of Afghanistan.
Other challenges include outbreaks of highly infectious
diseases such as Ebola, cholera and yellow fever and a global
rise in chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart
disease, and also the impact of stress and hardship on mental
health and wellbeing. And there are pockets of hard-to-reach
communities still left behind despite inroads globally on
immunisation, HIV, malaria, TB and maternal, adolescent and
These challenges are a reminder the world has a long way to
go before the WHO can claim success in achieving its mission of
attaining the highest possible level of health for all people.
One essential element will be for WHO to recognise the
absolutely central role of local communities in preventing,
detecting and responding to health challenges. WHO brings much
needed technical knowledge, and expertise to the world and has
the ability to mobilize international actors and resources.
To be a far-reaching emissary of global public health, the
WHO must help bridge the divide between health systems
nationally and globally, and the local communities that
ultimately determine the course of an outbreak or health risk.
Health challenges do indeed start and end in communities.
ALISON HOLMES, PROFESSOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, IMPERIAL
Amongst the variety of global health imperatives and complex
organisational and administrative tasks the new DG must address,
there are some key priorities to highlight.
1) He must restore strong confidence in the role of the WHO
and its global credibility in being able to rapidly address,
manage and contain emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.
It must have the capacity and structures, as well as expertise,
to be rapidly responsive and effective. Through this the DG
could then demonstrably and clearly negate the legacy of
criticism regarding Ebola and other responses.
2) He must ensure there is international and national
leadership regarding the major health threat of antimicrobial
resistance and the management of drug resistant infections.
There needs to be a whole healthcare economy approach to the
challenge and cross-sectoral working with those working in
agriculture, environment and industry. To support this objective
the importance of infection prevention, sanitation and
vaccination needs to be addressed to minimise preventable
infectious diseases and further use of antibiotics. Sustainable
and equitable access to effective treatment for infection must
not be compromised.
3) The protection of healthcare workers needs to be made
paramount. Their safety needs to be an overarching and constant
aim, whether it is ensuring their protection from infection is
optimal or ensuring their right to work safely and be protected
in their place of work without fear of attack. This needs to be
a core principle - an ethos that promotes and recognises the
value and commitment of healthcare workers globally.
It must be recognised that for any DG to be able to deliver
these priorities as well as the many others, and to continue to
demonstrate the critical global role of the WHO, the
underpinning necessary resources and administrative structures
must be appropriate.
MARTIN EDLUND, CEO, MALARIA NO MORE
Nearly seven million more people are alive thanks to bold
leadership and innovation, generous financial support and
community-led efforts since 2000 to combat malaria. But we have
much more work to do. Historic success is tempered by the fact
that half the world’s population remains at risk of this
preventable and treatable disease and that a child still dies of
malaria every two minutes.
The world is at an important crossroads in the fight against
malaria. More than 20 countries are on track to eliminate
malaria transmission by 2020, according to the WHO. Achievement
of this goal would create undeniable momentum toward ending the
disease globally. What happens in the next five years will
determine whether we can put the world on a path to end malaria,
or we risk opening the door to resurgence, drug- and
insecticide-resistance, greater suffering and economic hardship.
We cannot afford to miss the opportunity to end malaria.
Even in a world with so many pressing health challenges, malaria
must remain a priority. Leadership by the next DG of the WHO
could be decisive. We must continue to deliver on the basics to
stop people dying needlessly from mosquito bites.
We are now able to target malaria interventions more
efficiently and cost-effectively than ever before. Yet, to
realize this potential and accelerate malaria elimination,
countries must expand surveillance efforts and data-driven
decision making with the WHO’s guidance and support. By
equipping countries to eliminate malaria, we also prepare them
to tackle emerging health threats, thereby strengthening global
health security for all.
ROY ANDERSON, DIRECTOR, LONDON CENTRE FOR NTD RESEARCH, IMPERIAL
Within the shifting geo-political and economic landscape one
of the major challenges facing the new DG will be to expand and
to broaden its funding base beyond the United States and Western
Europe and engender support from countries such as China and
With the increased frequency of global epidemics such
as MERS, ZIKA, and Ebola it is vital that WHO continues to
develop procedures for dealing with new epidemics. The response
to Ebola showed the importance of good crisis management teams
being able to respond effectively to emergencies – and the
lessons learnt must be put into practice for future events.
It also identified the need to be better able to speedily
evaluate new therapies/vaccines for potential use in such
situations. Advances in technology and the use of open access
data bases need to be embraced more effectively by the WHO to
provide international leadership in both monitoring disease
morbidity and mortality.
One of the ambitious challenges the WHO has set is the
control and elimination of neglected tropical diseases. The WHO
has had great success in working with philanthropists such as
Bill and Melinda Gates in developing a road map for this. A
clear task is to deliver on this roadmap in the coming decade.
These relationships with aid agencies and philanthropists need
to be maintained and were possible expanded to face up to many
new threats such as that of antibiotic resistance by regulating
the use and production of sub-standard or fake medicines.
The WHO needs to be able to call on new ideas and
innovations if it is to effectively meet the numerous challenges
facing it. To do this the new director may want to
institutionalise meritocracy by defining tenure periods for post
holders in Geneva and regional offices thereby ensuring a
constant flow of new talent.
STEVE DAVIS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, PATH
Tedros takes the helm of the WHO in the face of significant
and complex challenges to global health and security. Chief
among these will be to ensure the WHO and member states act on
the lessons of the devastating recent Ebola epidemic in West
Africa and the current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of
the Congo, so that the global community is better prepared to
respond swiftly to future outbreaks before they spiral out of
The WHO has a tremendous opportunity to accelerate recent
advances in global health. PATH urges the new DG to prioritise
the necessary policies and investments to promote innovation
through health research and development, increase global access
to lifesaving medicines and technologies, and continue global
progress toward ending HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, polio and
preventable maternal and child deaths.
Additionally, it will be important to facilitate the
multisector collaboration needed to achieve such goals. Tedros
must set forth and execute a plan to address these challenges
and opportunities amid budget crises, challenging political
climates, and the continuing need for institutional
reforms. PATH looks forward to seeing Tedros spearhead a highly
effective, efficient, and forward-thinking WHO that embraces
innovation, to achieve a world where affordable, quality health
care is within reach of everyone.
WENDY HARRISON, CEO SCHISTOSOMIASIS CONTROL INITIATIVE, CHAIR OF
NEGLECTED TROPICAL DISEASE NGO NETWORK
The WHO has provided outstanding leadership in the fight
against neglected tropical diseases. This diverse group of
treatable and preventable infectious diseases have a devastating
impact on individuals and communities, causing severe
disfigurement and disability.
They affect the poorest and most marginalised communities in
the world, placing a heavy burden on over one billion people.
They impact on life expectancy, education and economic
opportunities of affected individuals, costing developing
economies billions of dollars each year.
They are cost-effective to treat and are often known as a
"best buy in public health", costing as little as half a dollar
per treatment. In 2016, the WHO reported on the delivery of
almost one billion treatments. We urge the new DG to continue
this momentum, to eliminate these diseases that trap communities
in poverty and deprive them of the opportunity to fulfil their
EMMA IRIARTE, EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, SALUD MESOAMERICA INITIATIVE
Inequality is one of the main challenges for health.
Bringing quality health services to the most disadvantaged,
especially women and children, is a priority for public
institutions and the new director of the WHO.
Did you know that in Central America only one of every two
pregnant women in the poorest 20 percent gives birth assisted by
skilled personnel and that twice as many children under five in
the poor population die compared to the regional average?
In Latin American and the Caribbean maternal mortality is
the leading cause of death among 15-19 year-olds and 90 percent
of maternal deaths are from preventable causes.
Measurement, decision-making based on scientific evidence,
result-based financing, policy dialogue with countries,
public-private partnership and, above all, innovation are the
most useful tools to break health gaps and these factors should
be high up on the new DG's agenda.
MUSIMBI KANYORO, PRESIDENT AND CEO, GLOBAL FUND FOR WOMEN
As the world faces increasingly complex health challenges,
including aging populations, an epidemic of non-communicable
diseases and health risks due to environmental issues, the
ability of women to thrive and strengthen communities and
economies has never been more crucial, and yet it is still not a
realistic possibility for so many around the world.
Health challenges are not the same across geographies and
genders. From natural factors such as climate to systemic issues
linked to finances and workforce training, health issues vary
considerably between geographic regions. And from complications
related to childbirth to inequitable access to care due to their
gender, women face different health issues and risks than men.
The world’s most powerful health agency needs a leader who
advocates for gender equality and sexual and reproductive health
and rights as a net positive for all. He must consistently
prioritise girls and women as powerful agents of change and
drivers of development.
Equally important, he must strengthen the WHO’s gender
balance and engagement with young people and civil society not
just because it's the right thing to do, but the sound thing to
(Editing by Astrid Zweynert @azweynert.; Please credit the
Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson
Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.