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Ethiopia's Tedros elected first African to head WHO

By Mike Bambach
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia waves to the audience after being elected Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tuesday during the 70th World Health Assembly at United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo by Valentin Flauraud/EPA
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia waves to the audience after being elected Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tuesday during the 70th World Health Assembly at United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo by Valentin Flauraud/EPA

May 23 (UPI) -- Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia will be the first African to lead the World Health Organization following his election Tuesday as director-general of the United Nations agency.

Tedros, 58, pledged to respond "rapidly and effectively" to emergencies and to stand up for the rights of the poor.

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"I envision a world in which everyone can lead healthy and productive lives, regardless of who they are or where they live," he said in his vision statement.

Tedros replaces Margaret Chan, who was criticized for the WHO's slow response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Her 10-year term ends on June 30.

He received 133 of the votes cast by the health ministers of 186 countries. He ultimately beat out David Nabarro of Britain after three voting rounds.

Tedros is credited for a drastic reduction in deaths from malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis and neonatal problems when he was Ethiopia's health minister from 2005-12.

He led a comprehensive reform effort of Ethiopia's health system, creating 3,500 health centers and 16 000 health posts.

Tedros is also an advocate of universal health care.

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"All roads should lead to universal health coverage," he told the World Health Assembly before Tuesday's vote. "I will not rest until we have met this."

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