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Ethiopian Tedros new boss of the World Health Organization

Ethiopian Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was elected on Tuesday as new Director General of the WHO (World Health Organization), winning the Nineteenth round before the British David Nabarro.

This is the first time that an African will lead the WHO, one of the most powerful UN agencies, employing some 8.000 people in the world.

"I want to serve the member states of WHO, it is the only program," said the World Health Assembly, the future general director of the institution, after his election.

"Let us go up the sleeves, we can do it," he added, applause from the Assembly.

The new head of WHO, one of the most influential UN agencies headquartered in Geneva, will take the 1er July as the successor to Dr. Margaret Chan (China) who headed the institution for ten years.

The former Ethiopian Health Minister and renowned researcher on malaria, aged 52 years, had already reached the first round and the 2th round but had not obtained a two-thirds majority of the required votes.

His challenger, Dr. David Nabarro, 67 years, has been UN special envoy for the fight against Ebola.

At the 1er tour, three candidates clashed, but the one with the fewest votes was eliminated. He was the cardiologist and former Pakistani health minister, Dr. Sania Nishtar.

- Making the WHO transparent -
This is the first time that three candidates have clashed to become director general of the WHO, an institution criticized for its lack of transparency.

Previously, only a single candidate, proposed by the WHO Executive Board, was put to the vote of the World Health Assembly, which was making the final appointment.

Dr. Tedros will lead an agency that has been criticized for his lack of judgment about the severity of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa between late 2013 and 2016, which has caused more 11.300 deaths.

China's Margaret Chan acknowledged on Monday, in a speech to the World Health Assembly, which once a year brings together WHO member countries, that the epidemic had "taken everyone, 'WHO, by surprise'.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, 52, said in his speech that he had lost a brother who had not received the necessary medication when he was a child. He said "refusing to accept that people die because they are poor."

"I promise to work tirelessly to realize the promise of universal health coverage, to ensure that there are strong responses in emergencies," he said in his plea.

In addition, the Ethiopian doctor said he would strengthen "the health and autonomy of countries" and "put transparency at the heart of WHO".

When selecting from a list of candidates 6 candidates 3 finalists, last January, Dr. Tedros had already led the vote, ahead of Dr. Nishtar and Dr. Nabarro. The sign, for some observers, of the will to elect a candidate of "a country of the south".

Dr. Tedros, who was also the country's chief diplomat, was supported by the African Union.

WHO coordinates responses to pandemics and sets standards for health systems in all countries.

"The new Director General must continue to work to make WHO more effective and transparent. WHO needs to be transparent about how it uses its resources and results," said the US Health Minister Tom Pricese in Geneva.

As the first NGO to respond to this election, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, welcomed the election of Dr. Tedros, a former member of its board of directors.

"I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to Dr. Tedros," said Dr. Seth Berkley, Executive Director of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

The election was held at the World Health Assembly, which convenes the WHO member states every year in Geneva.

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