Why Dr. Tedros Adhanom Of Ethiopia Should Lead The World Health Organization
By Samuel Getachew
Ethiopia is a country of limitless possibilities and challenges. As important as it is to never neglect to note its many challenges, it’s also important to embrace and celebrate its achievements as well. In reflecting on where the country is headed, it would be foolish and unfair to look for a perfect scenario.
There is no perfect society. My adopted country, Canada, while a model for many, still faces many challenges to overcome. As Harvard Professor, Calestous Juma once confided to me, it is better to be positive when it comes to Africa, rather than be its constant critic from a distance. In the words of Albert Einstein - “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”
That is why, I am proud to endorse the efforts of Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, Tedros Adhanom (Phd) and hope his approach will be welcomed around the world as the next Secretary General of the World Health Organization (WHO).
For the past three decades, Dr. Adhanom, led many institutions that have benefited from his wisdom, unique leadership and they each have shown a real, remarkable impact on the ground. As health minister, for instance, he was a celebrated advocate for accessible health care for all. He led the effort to build 3,500 health centers in all areas of Ethiopia, including those that are hard to reach in the urban areas of the country and led the fight to reduce the child mortality rate of the country by a significant number.
A feminist before it became the norm to be one, he advocated for women and girls rights. With a slogan, “Let’s put women and girls first,” he revolutionized Ethiopia’s scarce health-care system to better reflect a higher standard. Under his watch, close to 40,000 people were trained as health-care workers and helped create a system that better-reflected gender neutrality.
The respected malaria expert also became a voice of reason in the international arena. He was appointed to chair the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as well chair the board of UNAIDS. He also chaired the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Coalition, with 75 member countries; and as the head of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, he helped raise $3 billion. On issues such as health care, he made Ethiopia an example for other countries to emulate.
In 2011, the Jimmy Carter Center honored him with the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Humanitarian Award, the very first non-American to receive the prestigious honour.
Five years ago, he was asked to serve as foreign minister, and quickly made Ethiopia a formidable voice on international issues. Under his watch, Ethiopia would become a temporary member of the United Nations Security Council and show bold leadership within the Addis Ababa based African Union. Quite simply, he made Ethiopia an important and a valued voice on world affairs rather than the dumping ground for the world’s pity and charitable donations.
The reality is, he is a respected voice and his public service record is the hallmark of what is needed at WHO. The world needs a strong voice like his to lead this prestigious international organization, especially as it faces a slew of challenges in the years to come.
It is remarkable, while Africa benefits from developing resources sent from abroad, WHO has never experienced African leadership. Dr. Adhanom, enthusiastically endorsed by the African Union would be its very first, if he was to be successful. I hope member nations will quickly embrace him as their preferred candidate and understand the values he will bring to the position.
The writer, Samuel Getachew, is a resident of Toronto and is a regular contributor to TZTA, Generation Next and Leaders & Legacies (among others). He is the recipient of the City of Toronto’s William P. Hubbard Award for Equity and Human Rights and was chosen by the Toronto Star as ‘Person to Watch’ in 2014.