WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is all but guaranteed a second term after a procedural vote on Tuesday made him the sole nominee for a leadership election in May.
The first African leader of the UN health agency said he was “very grateful for the renewed support,” after the WHO’s executive board held a secret-ballot vote approving his nomination as the only candidate for the post.
“I am actually lost for words,” Tedros said after all of the board’s 34 members, representing countries from around the world, threw their weight behind him.
The only three votes he was missing were from absentees Tonga, Afghanistan and East Timor, a diplomatic source said.
The former Ethiopian minister of health and foreign affairs is thus expected to be re-elected when all 194 WHO member states cast their ballots in May for the next director-general.
Tedros, one of the most recognizable figures of the global fight against COVID-19, acknowledged that his first five-year term had been “challenging and difficult,” and said it was a “great honor” to be given the opportunity to continue the battle.
Since COVID-19 emerged more than two years ago, the 56-year-old malaria specialist has received praise for the way he has steered the WHO.
“We appreciate not only your leadership during this period, but also your humanity and your compassion,” South Korean Minister of Food and Drug Safety Kim Ganglip said, speaking for the WHO’s western Pacific region countries.
African nations have been pleased at the attention paid to the continent and at his relentless campaign for poorer nations to receive a fair share of COVID-19 vaccines.
The main source of opposition against Tedros has ironically come from his own country.
Ethiopia’s government has slammed his comments about the humanitarian situation in his home region of Tigray, in the grip of a 14-month conflict.
In a statement, Ethiopia accused him of committing “flagrant misconduct on a routine basis,” having “abused his office” to advance propaganda.
“His interference in a member state of the WHO advocating for a party to a conflict constitutes a blatant misconduct,” it said.
Ethiopia’s position has not garnered much support.
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