Ethiopian wins vote to be first African head of WHO

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"It's not only a question of symbolism", he said, citing him as African governments' choice. He vowed to focus on the most needy and noted the importance of effective partnerships with health care providers. Ezekiel Emanuel, chair of the department of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, defended him against what he called "terribly nasty" dirty tricks. "This will be my central priority".

Now an African, Tedros, will be at the helm of global efforts to tackle health problems. He served as Ethiopia's health minister until 2012, greatly expanding the healthcare system in one of the most impoverished countries on earth.

Tedro defeated Britain's Dr. David Nabarro, a United Nations veteran, in the final round of voting on Tuesday. The number of medical schools increased more than tenfold from 3 to 33, leading to an exponential rise in the number of trained doctors throughout the East African country in the Horn of Africa.

The victor will succeed Dr.

Tedros won 133 votes to Nabarro's 50 in the third round of voting.

Tedros also defeated cardiologist Sania Nishtar of Pakistan for the job.

Ethiopian supporters hugged and high-fived each other after the announcement.

In the second round, Ghebreyesus got 121 votes - just one vote short of the clear two-third majority required - while Nabarro got 62 votes, pushing the contest to the third round which required only a simple majority to win the elections. Members of the Ethiopian diaspora have pleaded with the countries voting in the election to reject Tedros as a representative of a repressive political regime. Nabarro had 52 votes and Nishtar 38. She said she chose to go into public health after being told the hospital where she worked in Pakistan would start using recycled catheters for patients who couldn't pay.

Tedros was chosen as WHO's next leader by delegates participating in the ongoing 70th World Health Assembly (WHA).

Like the other two candidates, Nishtar promised to make WHO accountable, saying she was credited for bringing transparency to public health when she was a minister in Pakistan. She promised to bring accountability to World Health Organization and said she was committed to visiting countries "not to cut ribbons but to work with you".

Nabarro, who was the western-backed candidate, is the Special Adviser to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the world organisation's Sustainable Development Agenda, and had been former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's envoy for dealing the Ebola epidemic that ravaged parts of Africa during 2014-15.

"Tedros is an excellent choice to lead World Health Organization", said Dr. Thomas Frieden, an ex-director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In response to an Associated Press story this week that found World Health Organization routinely spends about $200 million per year on travel expenses - more than it spends on AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined - Tedros said it was important for the agency to cut its overhead costs, but that travel was an integral part of WHO's work.

He added: "Under my leadership, it will be". As the former health minister of Ethiopia, he was accused of covering up cholera outbreaks in the country.

Among other pledges, Tedros said he would work "tirelessly to fulfill WHO's promise of universal health care".

Of the United Nations health agency's 194 member states, 185 were eligible to cast ballots; nine others either were in arrears on their dues or not represented at the gathering. Nine others either were in arrears on their dues or not represented at the gathering.

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