Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “the son of war” who became the head of the WHO

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A malaria specialist, with a degree in immunology and a doctor of community health, Dr. Tedros, as he likes to call himself, was the Minister of Health and the head of diplomacy in his country.

At 57, this familiar face of the anti-Covid fight is the only candidate for his succession. His mandate, as he recently pointed out, remains marked by the conflict in Yemen and Ukraine.

Used to going to the front lines, he visited bombed Ukrainian hospitals.

“Even more than pandemics, war shakes and destroys the foundations on which previously stable societies rested” and conflicts leave “psychological scars that can take years or decades to heal,” said Dr. Tedros recently, for whom “peace it is essential for health “.

These scars are so much suffering that he himself has suffered.

“I am a child of war”, the WHO head moved with emotion at the opening of the 75th World Health Assembly which brings together the member states of the organization.

fear and pain

“The sound of gunfire and bullets hissing in the air, the smell of smoke after impact, the tracer bullets in the night sky, the fear, the pain, the loss – these things have stayed with me all my life. , because I was in the middle of the war when I was very young, “he said.

When the mother heard gunshots at night, “she made us sleep under the bed (…) in the hope that we would be protected if a bullet fell on our house.”

Years later, with the resumption of the war in Ethiopia in 1998, “that fear” returned when it was her children’s turn to “hide in a bunker”.

And while the Ethiopian region of Tigray, his native region, has been plagued by conflict since late 2020, he admits he feels “the same pain again.”

“I’m not just a child of war, he follows me everywhere”.

His childhood was also marked by the death of a brother due to lack of drugs.

Ethiopia and USA

Warmly, Dr. Tedros is much appreciated, especially by Africans, for having allowed the gaze of the international community, especially during the pandemic, to turn more towards this continent.

The main criticisms came from his own country, with Addis Ababa accusing him of “abusing his position” after his comments on the humanitarian situation in Tigray.

The arrival of Democrat Joe Biden in the White House, which has put the United States back in the WHO fold, gave him a second wave, as he was constantly attacked by Donald Trump, who had cut the food of the organization he accused. mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic and being too close to Beijing.

The more critical tone of Dr. Tedros towards China, which he considers not sufficiently transparent about the origin of the pandemic, has earned him some reproaches from Beijing, which however supports its renewal.

A sexual violence scandal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo perpetrated by employees of his organization – among other aid workers – earned him twice a barrage of green wood from several dozen member countries, which found his reaction too soft and too much. slow.

The pandemic has shown that his pleas often go unheeded, such as when he called on richer countries to institute moratoriums on vaccine boosters so that the poorest can benefit.

After a first mandate marked by Covid, which highlighted the shortcomings of the WHO, Dr. Tedros will have to win the bet of strengthening the United Nations agency in particular to prevent and better manage future epidemics. The contours of the reform remain to be defined by the countries, some of which have little desire to give more power to the WHO.

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