By Sola Ogundipe
Former Nigerian Minister of State for Health, Dr. Muhammed Ali Pate and Wife of the Nigerian Senate President, Mrs. Toyin Saraki, have endorsed the African Union, AU, candidate, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia to become the next Director-General of the World Health Organisation, WHO.
Pate, who is CEO, Big Win Philanthropy and Adjunct Professor, Duke University Global Health Institute, USA, and Toyin Saraki, the Founder-President, Wellbeing Foundation Africa, WBFA, are among 35 of the top global health leaders that include former Heads of State, health, foreign affairs and development ministers, prominent academics and civil society advocates that have also endorsed Tedros, who is Africa’s candidate for the WHO top job.
Tedros is squaring up against Dr Sania Nishtar of Pakistan and Dr David nabarro of the United Kingdom for the position that will become vacant when the current DG, dr Margaret Chan steps down at the end of her tenure in June.
The high-level endorsement comes at the Ministers of Health of the WHO Member States elect at the 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
If elected, Tedros would be the first WHO Director-General from Africa – as well as the first former Minister of Health or former Minister of Foreign Affairs to serve in this role.
In a jointly signed open letter, the high-level endorsers – representing a broad cross section of the most influential people in global health in 23 countries across five continents – called on Ministers of Health across the world to elect Tedros, who they described as the “most capable and qualified candidate” for the job.
They note his proven record in reforming Ethiopia’s health system, which brought primary healthcare to the country, cutting child mortality by two-thirds and reducing HIV infections by 90 per cent and malaria and tuberculosis deaths by 75 per cent and 64 per cent, respectively.
The leaders – all with long experience working in health on the international and national levels – also highlighted Tedros’ public health and diplomatic leadership as well as his integrity, humility, and decisiveness.
“Dr. Tedros not only has the vision and experience to lead the world toward achieving the ambitious aims laid out in the SDGs, including universal health coverage, but also the hands-on experience to be a supportive, credible partner to countries in their efforts to achieve them,” the leaders stated.
Tedros who served as both Minister of Health (2005-2012) and Minister of Foreign Affairs (2012-2016) of Ethiopia, led a comprehensive reform that dramatically helped improve health outcomes in the country.
During his tenure, more than 3,500 health centers and 16,000 health posts were created; 38,000 health extension workers were trained to deliver services in their communities, among others achievements.