Monrovia - The position of the next Director General of the World Health organization has started and the final vote does not take place until May, 2017 but a number of candidates have already declared their intention to fill the high profile position.
So far, three candidates have declared their intentions to occupy the position including Philippe Douste-Blazy, who served two terms as France’s Minister of Health and later became Foreign Minister; Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Ethiopia’s current Minister of Foreign Affairs and Sania Nishtar, former Minister of Health of Pakistan.
It is likely that other candidates will emerge before the close of the nomination period for the next Director General of the WHO and it is expected that October World Health Assembly will be a useful opportunity for member states to take soundings about the issues that will decide the election (geography, gender, and proven political skills will likely be as important as technical expertise).
As part of the process to fill the position, in January, 2017, the Executive Board of the WHO can propose up to three names to be considered by the World Health Assembly.
There are debates within WHO circle that it is time for an African to lead the global health organization.
Believing that it is time for the continent to head the WHO, Africa presented a united front and endorsed the candidacy of Ethiopia's former minister of health Tedros Adhanom in the decision made at the January 2016 Summit of AU Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Abdelmalek Boudiaf, Algeria's Minister of Health and coordinator of the African Group at the WHO said that Tedros's candidacy is "legitimate" and his possible election "would only be fair for Africa".
Chairperson of the African Union Commission, South African Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma also attended the conference in support to Africa's candidate for WHO director-general position.
The nomination of Africa’s candidate, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, is deeply tied with Ethiopia’s achievement on many of the health goals of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) during his tenure.
Liberia’s betrays Africa?
While the African Union has endorsed the candidacy of Ethiopia Adhanom at the AU head of State and Government gathering, Liberia’s Minister of Health Dr. Bernice Dahn is contesting along with France’s Douste-Blazy against the decision of the AU.
In an interview on France 24 TV Channel, conducted with Minister Dahn and Douste-Blazy, the Liberian Health Minister promised to support Douste-Blazy and also persuade other African countries to do so.
The French channel stated that both Dr. Dahn and Douste-Blazy rae contesting as a set and on the same ticket.
Stated the introduction statement on the TV interview “In July, the World Health Organization will choose a new director general. One of the candidates is France's Philippe Douste-Blazy, a former Health, Culture, and Foreign Affairs Minister.
A cardiologist by profession, he is Chairman of UNITAID, a global health NGO largely financed by a levy on airline tickets.
He is joined on the set and on the ticket by Liberia's Health Minister Bernice Dahn. They tell Marc Perelman what their priorities would be for the WHO”.
Responding to a question from the host on whether she Africa will support Douste-Blazy, Dr. Dahn said “I am here as a professional colleague who has come to support him on this day that he is declaring his intention.
The position of Director General is normally highly political, highly competitive, and highly technical, countries do make the decisions, with his political agenda as a friend, I can help him to market that with my other African colleagues”.
Dr. Dahn as part of the campaign process for election of Douste-Blazy the Liberian health minister said the WHO needs to build the capacity of countries to meet the international health regulations.
Said Dr. Dahn: “From Liberia perspective, it is advisable to build country capacity to meet the international health regulations, we all signed unto the health regulations but the implementation of the regulations has been very slow.
As a country whenever they ask us to access ourselves and we asked them to defer until the outbreak of Ebola, but we also see the outbreak Ebola as an opportunity to build the systems to meet the International health regulations”.
Minister Dahn expressed that countries spent millions of dollars to bring the health emergency in the three affected West Africa countries under control but said it is time to refocus and make interventions in building the health care delivery system in these countries.
“If you listen to the news you hear the United States Africa spent US$1.2 billion to respond to Ebola in the three affected countries.
Could we have spent that to strengthen our systems to prevent the outbreak to the scale at which it went, yes, so this is time to relook, refocus and intervene”, Minister Dahn added.
She said Liberia has developed an investment plan to build a resilient health care delivery system and is working with partners to build a system that will withstand an new emergency.
“At the moment we still have the partners with us, trying to help us build that system but we also see some of the funding that was emergency related has been withdrawn.
So, if we do not build the system and you withdraw the support, it means you are putting us in a position where we will have to go back to an emergency and you will have to respond.
So, there is a need to build the system, to make it resilient and so that we cannot become a threat to the world again”, Minister Dahn continued.
Minister Dahn ignores President Sirleaf stance
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf attended the January 2016 Summit of AU Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where the decision was made by African Presidents to endorse Ethiopia’s Tedros Adhanom's but the stance by her Minister to support Douste-Blazy is against the decision of the AU.
The Executive Council of the African Union (AU) except for one vote from the Senegalese representation, endorsed the bid of Tedros Adhanom's (PhD) to replace Margaret Chan as Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Tedros Adhanom’s is known for his contribution to the development of the country's health sector during his tenure as Minister of Health (MoH) between 2005 and 2012.
Tedros' attempt is the second recent attempt by an official of the incumbent Ethiopian government, after that of Sufian Ahmed, former minister of Finance & Economic Development (MoFED) and now advisor to Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, to replace Donald Kaberuka (PhD) as President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) failed in 2015.
Tedros effort, however, seems to have gained traction with the support from the continental body.
It is said that Tedros bid, which is being made a year and a half before Chan's term ends, has the full support of the government. Tedros has a PhD in Community Health, an MSc in Immunology of Infectious Diseases, and a BA in Biology.
Liberia was one of the first African countries to speak against former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi when the former Libyan leader who was a major contributor to the African Union was under attack.