Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset has welcomed the appointment of Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as the new director general of the Geneva-based World Health Organisation (WHO), praising his commitment to global health.
On Tuesday, WHO member states elected the former Ethiopian ministerexternal link as the new WHO director general for a five-year term to take over from Margaret Chan.
“We hope he will contribute to the strengthening of WHO,” Berset told the Swiss News Agency. The Swiss minister said he hoped the Ethiopian would work to ensure an efficient approach for dealing with humanitarian and health crises around the world.
The former Ethiopian health minister and foreign minister won more than half the votes in the first round of the WHO election and won a decisive third round, beating Britain’s David Nabarro, to become the first African to lead the United Nations agency and its 8,000 staff.
Six candidates had stood to take over from Chan as head of the WHO. Chan, a former Hong Kong health director, steps down on June 30 after 10 years on June 30. Her time at the helm of the organisation has been blighted by a flawed response to the Ebola outbreak in three West African countries that killed more than 11,000 people.
Tedros, 52, was widely reported as having the support of African votes, but questions about his role in restricting human rights and Ethiopia's cover-up of a cholera outbreak surfaced late in the race, threatening to tarnish his appeal.
Tuesday’s closed-door vote was the highlight event of the 10-day World Health Assembly currently taking place in Geneva, which will also lay out strategies on issues like the fight against polio, preparedness for pandemic flu, and antimicrobial resistance.