WHO Chief to Be Confirmed for 2nd Term 05/24 06:07
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is expected to be confirmed
by the U.N. health agency's member countries for a second five-year term on
LONDON (AP) -- WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is expected
to be confirmed by the U.N. health agency's member countries for a second
five-year term on Tuesday.
No other candidate challenged Tedros for the post amid the ongoing
difficulties of responding to the devastating coronavirus pandemic.
Tedros, a former government minister from Ethiopia, has directed the World
Health Organization throughout its management of the global response to
COVID-19 and withstood occasionally withering criticism over its multiple
missteps. He is the first African to lead the agency and the only
director-general not qualified as a medical doctor.
Under Tedros, the U.N. health agency failed to call out countries including
China for blunders that WHO officials grumbled about privately, advised against
mask-wearing for months, and said initially that the coronavirus wasn't likely
to mutate rapidly. Scientists drafted by WHO to investigate the coronavirus'
origins in China said the critical probe was " stalled " last year, after
issuing a report that even Tedros acknowledged had prematurely ruled out the
possibility of a laboratory leak.
"There have been some mishaps, but Tedros has also been a steady voice
throughout the pandemic, advocating for an equitable response," said Javier
Guzman, director of global health policy at the Center for Global Development
He said despite reservations about Tedros' leadership, some countries
weren't willing to push for change.
"We are in the middle of the pandemic and there is some pressure for
consistent leadership to take us through this difficult moment," Guzman said.
Tedros has frequently railed against rich countries for hoarding the world's
limited supply of vaccines and insisted that pharmaceuticals aren't doing
enough to make their medicines available to the poor. Amid the near-universal
focus on Ukraine after the Russian invasion, Tedros slammed the global
community for not doing enough to solve crises elsewhere, including Yemen,
Syria and Afghanistan, arguing that it was possibly because those suffering
Still, critics say Tedros has failed on some fundamental issues, like
holding staff accountable after allegations that dozens of outbreak workers
managed by WHO sexually abused young women in Congo during an Ebola outbreak
that began in 2018, in one of the biggest sex scandals in U.N. history. None of
the senior WHO managers alerted to the abuse allegations and who did little to
stop the exploitation, have been fired.
In January, The Associated Press reported that staffers in WHO's Western
Pacific office filed an internal complaint accusing regional director Dr.
Takeshi Kasai of abusive, racist and other misconduct, undermining efforts to
stem the spread of COVID-19. In response, Tedros said an investigation into the
allegations had been launched and promised to act "with urgency."
But last week, several WHO staffers wrote to the agency's Executive Board
complaining that Kasai "has been able to continue his unethical, abusive and
racist conduct without any form of restriction." In an email to staff, Kasai
disputed the charges.
Public health expert Guzman said the apparent culture of impunity at WHO was
"We do need to see a stronger (WHO) director-general going forward, where
misconduct is not tolerated," he said, calling for extensive reforms to make
the agency accountable.
As Tedros begins his second term, some experts have also raised concerns
that WHO isn't fulfilling its primary role as a technical agency providing
science-based guidance to countries.
Dr. David Tomlinson, a cardiologist who has campaigned for better protective
equipment for health workers in Britain's health system, says he has been
appalled by WHO advice, most notably their reluctance to acknowledge that
COVID-19 is widely spread in the air. In July 2020, more than 230 scientists
published a paper appealing to WHO to recognize the coronavirus was airborne;
that later prompted the organization to alter some of its recommendations.
Tomlinson and others say Tedros should ensure WHO's top priority during
future health emergencies is evaluating the science.
"They have perpetuated untruths that have ultimately led to the deaths of
millions of people," he said, citing the estimated 15 million people who have
died during the pandemic. "We need an agency that's unafraid to tell the truth,
but that's unfortunately not what we have."