World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Picture: REUTERS/FABRICE COFFRINI
World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Picture: REUTERS/FABRICE COFFRINI

Bengaluru/Geneva  — Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), plans to run for a second five-year term as the head of the agency, Stat News reported on Monday, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Tedros has been the public face of the WHO’s efforts to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic since the new SARS-CoV-2 virus emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

In 2017, Ethiopia’s Tedros became the first African to head the Geneva-based UN agency and made universal healthcare coverage his priority.

A spokesperson for the WHO said it could not comment on potential nominees. WHO’s 194 member states may propose candidates until September, with the names sent in sealed envelopes to the governing board chair — ahead of the election in 2022.

It is unclear at this point whether others will emerge to challenge Tedros for the five-year term, the Stat report said.

Diplomats said Tedros’s support among African nations would be key to any re-election, while doubting he could count on support from his home country, which nominated him last time.

They noted that Ethiopia’s military, in November, accused him of supporting and trying to procure arms and diplomatic backing for Tigray state’s dominant political party, which is fighting federal forces. Tedros has denied taking sides in the conflict in Ethiopia.

Tedros, whose global profile has risen dramatically during the pandemic, flew to Beijing in January 2020 for talks with President Xi Jinping to ensure China’s co-operation and sharing of information, just before declaring a worldwide health emergency.

The Trump administration accused Tedros and the WHO of being “China-centric” — allegations they rejected — and halted US contributions while starting the process of leaving the agency. Immediately after taking office in January, the Biden administration announced that it would remain a member and fulfil its financial obligations while working on reforms.

Tedros distanced himself from the findings of a WHO-led mission earlier in the year, written jointly with Chinese scientists, that investigated the origins of the virus. The report issued on March 30 said the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal, and that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely” as a cause.

Tedros said that data had been withheld from the team and that the lab issue required further investigation.


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