First African Director GeneralAs a physician and Ethiopia’s former health Minister, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus possesses a highly regarded track record for helping those in need. As the first African Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), he is projected to carry on the legacy that got him elected over a promising British candidate.

Dr. Tedros, who campaigned by his first name, is hailed for having cut deaths from malaria, tuberculosis, and AIDS in half during his time as health minister in Ethiopia. In addition, he focused his attention on revising the entire system of health care to be more inclusive and efficient. This change included training 40,000 women as health workers and improving national laboratories and ambulance systems.

Malaria is to blame for 92 percent of deaths in sub-Saharan Africa, and Dr. Tedros focused largely on combatting this disease in his position as Chair of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership Board. He is considered a Malaria expert because of his successes within this position, but the eradication of diseases is only one of the visions he has for the future of WHO.

African countries consist of nine of the top 10 countries with the highest infant mortality rates in 2016. Ethiopia, where Dr. Tedros held the positions of both Minister of Health and Minister of Foreign Affairs, is ranked number 32. As the first African Director General to head the WHO and a co-chair on the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Board, Dr. Tedros represents the interests of some of the most underprivileged members of the global health community.

And his experience with such countries where health care is close to non-existent led to his vision for universal healthcare coverage. Globalization eliminated borders in regard to the spread of trade and disease, and Dr. Tedros aims to do the same with cooperative health care.

For now, his vision for the World Health Organization focuses largely on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals created by the UN, fostering global cooperation and eradicating diseases. WHO is already demonstrating its ability to accomplish these goals.

The US has contributed $1.2 billion from the Rotary Convention in Atlanta to help the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. With such cooperation, Tedros and WHO hope to eradicate polio in the three countries where it remains present: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Dr. Tedros is already carrying the momentum of his previous successes and driving the World Health Organization toward a successful and influential future less than a month into his role as the first African Director General.

Brooke Clayton

Photo: Flickr