As health minister of Ethiopia, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus saw the impact of disease outbreaks and poor health care firsthand. He witnessed how malaria could devastate an agricultural workforce and leave crops unharvested. “It was really mind boggling, and for me it was unacceptable,” he recalled. During his tenure, he set out to overcome some of his country’s greatest health challenges and saw dramatic gains in indicators such as child and maternal health.
Now as a candidate for the World Health Organization’s director-generalship, Tedros seeks to take his efforts global. Ethiopia’s candidate has won the endorsement of the African Union’s executive council and is the only prospective leader from the continent.
In an interview with Devex, Tedros said his experience in Ethiopia has grounded his belief in building strong health systems as well as pushing for universal coverage. He promised to prioritize WHO’s role in global health, while also seeking input and consultation about how the organization can be reformed.
Tedros also points to his experience as a diplomat as a credential for his candidacy. The incoming DG will need to balance scientific priorities with the politics of members states and other donors. Tedros told Devex he will make the case for member states to increase their buy-in to WHO to a “controlling share” of at least 51 percent of the budget — up from 20 percent today.