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Dr. Tedros - the Right Candidate for WHO

Member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) will elect a new Director General in 21-31 May 2017 at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

Among the candidates, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who served as Ethiopia's Minister of Health from 2005 to 2012 and Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2012 to 2016 is the best qualified one to lead the organization and to succeed Dr. Margaret Chan whose term ends on June 30.

African countries unanimously and many from other continents have endorsed Dr. Tedros as the right person to fill WHO's Director General position because of his qualification and extraordinary contributions for Ethiopia's health sector over the last 30 years. In fact, he has several well cultivated expertise knowledge and experiences that can help him to lead the WHO successfully in the rapidly changing world.

Health sector reformer

While serving as a health minister, Dr. Tedros made a great deal of contribution in transforming the health sector. Under his leadership, Ethiopia has achieved most of the health sector Millennium Development Goals. Besides, maternal and child mortality rate was reduced by 70 percent. At the same time, mortality due to tuberculosis was reduced by 64 percent. In his leadership, more than 3600 health centers and 18,000 health posts were established and about 40,000 health extension female workers were trained to ensure proper accessibility of health services for citizens.

While he was assuming office, the ministry was struggling with several challenges related to poverty, poor infrastructure, inadequate capacity and the likes. Regardless of these challenges, the nation has recorded remarkable achievements due to his skillful leadership for eight years. As a result, in 2010, Ethiopia was chosen by the US State Department as one of the US Global Health Initiative partnership. Appreciating Tedros' extraordinary leadership in the health sector, Former US President_Bill Clinton_said, "Dr Tedros is one of the ablest public servants I have ever worked with." while former President George W. Bush described him as one of the best health ministers in the world. His well cultivated technical and leadership skills enabled him to realize his vision of transforming the sector.

Before Dr. Tedros joined the health sector, the nation could not handle its human resources effectively since it lacked capacity to build its own health system. He introduced the health workforce reform strategy that reversed the situation through improving the working environment and motivation for medical doctors in addition to prioritizing series of trainings to produce adequate number of health professionals.

He has been well known in creating several strategies that help him to realize his vision of transforming the situation of health care in the nation. Among these, he established a close relationship with most key players in global health including former American president Bill Clinton, the Clinton Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Realizing Dr. Tedros' vision to improving the health situation of tens of millions of citizens, the foundations through the partnership demonstrated their commitment to assist Tedros' priorities by providing financial support and expertise. This enabled Tedros to successfully restructure and reform the ministry to improve the nation's health conditions. The reform he introduced is very unique in the history of the country. He led this comprehensive reform agenda with relentless commitment and determination and brought about tremendous achievements.

A great contributor for others

While serving as Minister of Health, Tedros' positive contributions went far beyond his nation. He was very active in global health initiatives and left a lasting legacy. According to Tedros' biography, in 2007-2010, he served as Chair of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership and Programme Coordinating Board of UNAIDS and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (2009-2011) and Co-Chair of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (2005-2009). He also served as a member of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) Board as well as the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and the Stop TB Partnership Coordinating Board and the like. Besides improving the operations of these organizations, he encouraged them to increase their finances. For instance, the Global Fund obtained 11.7 billion dollar while Roll Back Malaria received 3 billion dollar from donors. He served these global organizations with high degree of commitment and passion that he would demonstrate it in WHO. All these and others Tedros' extensive leadership experiences within the global health institutions can help him to effectively serve the world.

A well qualified diplomat

This transformational leader demonstrated well cultivated diplomatic experiences while he was serving as a foreign minister. For instance, demonstrating his negotiation and consensus building skills, he was instrumental in leading forum negotiations for the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA), the global community's plan to finance the Sustainable Development Goals which was held in Addis Ababa in 13-16 July 2015. This forum set policy actions by Member States that draw upon all sources of finance, technology, innovation, trade and data in order to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Moreover, as a Chair of the Executive Council of the AU in 2014, Dr. Tedros emphasized the need for a paradigm shift in Africa's political and socio-economic governance and development in order to realize the continent's long-term agendas. He also stressed the need for Africa to focus on issues of economic emancipation, peace and stability, the acceleration of rapid economic growth, good governance and democratization.

Tedros' negotiation skills played considerable roles in solving some disputes on the construction of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. "The dam will be used exclusively for power generation and is being constructed in a way that takes Egypt's water security concerns into account," he once stated.

He further worked tirelessly to strengthen the bilateral relations and coordinate the efforts of both nations towards mutual benefits in a manner that accelerates positive achievements.

An excellent listener

People who worked with Dr.Tedros testify that he is an excellent listener. At any occasion, his natural tendency is to encourage others to share their views first and he usually speaks last. His well developed listening skills makes him excellent leader. Communication experts tell us that outstanding leaders are outstanding listeners and leaders who listen could create trustworthy relationships that are transparent and breed loyalty. We believe that the WHO needs a leader who listens and who is able to accommodate the diversity of the world.

Few months ago, when he was asked the secret behind his successful leadership by Devex International Development Media, he responded, "When you talk about reform, I will be open minded. You cannot just bring something and say, 'I'll reform this.' It will start from listening -- listening to the facts, listening to the partners, to all member states, and [being] really clear about what should be reformed, and not only clarity on what should be reformed, but when we reform, everybody, all partners will be involved with it. All reforms start from clear listening, so that's what I will do. There should be an inclusive process in the identification of it."

A unique candidate

A glance at history tells us that the WHO has never had a Director General from Africa for about 70 years. This might be due to inconsiderate attitude of the westerners towards the third world. Fortunately, this attitude has been improved since western leaders decided to implement sustainable and inclusive development globally. Having this opportunity, the African Union endorsed Dr. Tedros' candidacy.

Africa's vulnerability to climate change, recurrent diseases and the like is very high. This necessitates the need for a qualified leader who has direct working experience with the problems in developing nations. Dr. Tedros has come from mostly affected communities. He remembers one of his experiences, "In 1987, as a junior public health specialist, I joined a team to control a raging malaria outbreak in southern Ethiopia. It took us almost four weeks to bring the outbreak under control. At that time, I witnessed firsthand so many deaths that I lost count. And I too was infected by malaria.

"I've discussed the greatest public health concerns and threats of our time. I've shared my three decades of experience in public health and politics. But I always find those experiences such as those in southern Ethiopia in 1987 and having been a victim of malaria myself at that early stage of my career shapes my conversations."

Provided that the member states of WHO want to see successful accomplishment of the Sustainable Development Goals and ensure the benefits of African countries, they ought to elect the leader who is very familiar with the situations of the vulnerable nations and ready to serve with sensitive heart.

Source: - The Ethiopian Herald



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Dr. Tedros Adhanom

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