The president of the World Health Assembly says that Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has been re-elected as director-general of the WHO by a strong majority for another five years.
At a big annual meeting, Ahmed Robleh Abdilleh from Djibouti announced that the vote would be done by secret ballot. Since Tedros was the only candidate, this was seen as a formality.
Ministers and delegates took turns shaking hands and hugging Tedros, who used to be Ethiopia’s health minister. Tedros has led the UN agency through a rough time dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several times, the president had to use a gavel to stop the cheers.
Tedros told the assembly soon after being re-elected that the WHO will focus on being ready for emergencies and improving itself.
“This pandemic has been like nothing we’ve ever seen before, and there are a lot of lessons we should and do learn from it. But at the same time, we can’t just stop, learn, and implement. Instead of stopping to learn, we’re saying let’s implement while we’re learning.”
The newly re-elected head of the WHO shed tears when he talked about the situation in Ukraine and how his younger brother died as a child from disease during a time of war and poverty.
“When I went to Ukraine and saw the kids, especially, I thought of a picture from more than 50 years ago. It was so clear and it kept coming back to me. War’s smell, sound, and sight. I don’t want anyone to go through that.”
Germany and the United States were among the first countries to send their best wishes.
The German Minister of Health, Karl Lauterbach, wrote on Twitter that Tedros got 155 of 160 votes, which he called a “spectacular” result.
“Congratulations, you’ve earned them.”
Germany recently passed the U.S. as the largest donor to the UN Health Agency.
But Tedros’ home country of Ethiopia did not back his bid for a second term because of disagreements over the Tigray conflict.
Ethiopia’s representative at the meeting made it clear that Botswana’s statement congratulating Tedros did not speak for all 47 African countries.
“The African group has always worked by getting everyone to agree on something. I’d like to say that nobody agreed on anything. So, the representative of Botswana cannot state on behalf of the African group.”