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Opinion: Who should lead WHO (Pt 1 of 3)? Dr. Tedros, nominee of the Government of Ethiopia.

The views expressed in this blog post belong solely to its author and do not necessarily reflect the views of PLOS or the PLOS journals. Please note, this is the first of three posts on the May 2017 election of the next Director General of the World Health Organization. Read part 2 here. Proposed guest posts for “Your Say” can be emailed to — PLOSBLOGS

By Zaeem Ul Haq, MBBS MPH 

Over the past several months, many colleagues in global health have asked who I think should be the next Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO). I’ve also been subtly encouraged to campaign on behalf of one candidate or another. So far, I have more or less remained neutral, not only because of some conflicting loyalties (see below), but also because I hadn’t yet had a chance to analyse the candidates’ manifestos and appraise these impartially to make an informed choice. Now that I have finally found time to do this, I would like to share the reasons behind my choice – and I invite other members of the global health community to do the same.

[PLOSBLOGS Editor’s note: guest posts for “Your Say” can be emailed to]

First plenary meeting. Monday, May 23, 2016. Monday, May 23, 2016.

First, for those who haven’t followed this issue closely, a little background is in order.

In brief, the names of candidates nominated by WHO member states were announced in September 2016. During October and November, the candidates presented their vision for WHO to member states and responded to their questions. In January 2017, the WHO executive board short listed 5 candidates, who then presented their manifestos and were interviewed by the board. The top three finalists were selected and have been put forward to the world health assembly to be held in May 2017, where member states will cast their votes and elect the next DG, who will take over from Margret Chan on July 1st, 2017. These three final candidates are:

  • Dr David Nabarro, nominee of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

To begin, there’s no doubt that all of these finalists have top-end credentials, and that I can think of countless reasons (such as those below) to be biased for all three, which makes the choice even more difficult than it probably is for someone else.

  • Two of them are nominees from my home (Pakistan) and adopted (UK) countries, so I inherently feel an obligation to support their candidature;
  • One of them, Dr. Nishtar, was my teacher in MPH, the other two I can proudly say, are fellow-alumni from the London School;
  • Two are medical doctors, another two public health specialists;
  • One worked in the same role with the organisation that I’ve worked for over the past decade (Save the Children), another pioneered and championed the community health approach that I have worked so passionately for over the past decade;
  • One is an eloquent speaker, another a proficient writer and the third an ardent practitioner;
  • All three are profound thinkers and great leaders in their own right, and thus it’s impossible to make distinction based on their profiles alone.

The choice should thus be based on their track record, achievements and their vision for the World Health Organisation over the next decade. And against those benchmarks, there is a clear winner, at least from my perspective.


Dr Tedros stands out as the most promising candidate to lead the World Health Organisation at this crucial time – with ever-increasing population, political, epidemiological and environmental challenges. My top three reasons reflect the facts that:

  • He has spearheaded the health sector reform in his country and providing exemplary leadership over the past decade;
  • He has galvanised bilateral and multi-sectoral partnerships that culminated in his country achieving the millennium development goal for child survival;
  • He has forged regional partnerships and generating global momentum for accelerating sustainable development;

Dr Tedros would be the first African to lead the WHO. As such, his hands-on experience effectively leading the national ministries of health and foreign affairs, wherein he accelerated progress towards increasing equitable access to basic health and nutrition services, will be instrumental for his governance. This experience will help ensure the WHO continues to provide global leadership to improve health outcomes and achieve sustainable development goals for health, for the hundreds of millions in need, in particular the most vulnerable and marginalised communities in Sub-Saharan Africa and in all fragile and conflict-affected states.

Snip20170405_2Zaeem Ul Haq, MBBS MPH is a public health physician who has worked over the past 15 years to improve health and nutrition outcomes for children and communities across low and middle income countries globally. Presently he is a health advisor with Save the Children, and provides strategic direction and technical support to country programmes globally, with a special focus on child survival and health systems strengthening in fragile states. He has previously worked for international organisations such as International Rescue Committee, Medecins Sans Frontineres and the Aga Khan Foundation.

The views expressed in this blog post belong solely to its author and do not necessarily reflect the views of PLOS or the PLOS journals.

  1. Indeed, without diminishing the other candidates, Dr. Tedros seems to have the strongest credentials and vision to lead the WHO. I second you.

  2. That is very true and interesting opinion not because I am Ethiopian rather because ammazing track record Dr.Tedros already have established.I remember from medical undergraduate studies once while malaria day was upon celebration, the name of one person came out as best Ethiopian malaria Researcher and that was Dr.Tedros.He championed our health care reform through health extension workers, doubled physcians graduated, tried to establish warm environment for us practitioners, championed for the development of our first ever Emergency Medicine training.Those were very few of his top achievement not to mention various awards he has already received.He is such a humble and open minded leader as well the one who invites people for idea sharing, he himself shares his personal phone to physcians working at country side in Ethiopia.I believe he is the right person for WHO DG post.
    Good luck

  3. Dr Tedros is examplary leader in his country as wellas globally;he played great role in health sector in his country …….,.so;I wish he will be DG for WHO in coming decads.

  4. Its wise and better to See all the ways & benefits of the WHOs as that the global world needs the best Leader who will play a Rolle .Its Obiviously knowen who will be the best of the best with Multi or highly has integratives knowlege ,expriance and motivativated .I want to segessted all candidates are very important candidates but Dr Tewodros Adhanom is the Most cohice specially i See him in as that the One who started the implimentations of MDG at Löw income african Community.

  5. I really appreciate, Dr.Ul Haq, for your clear analysis of the 3 candidates ‘ credentials, and drawing a fine-line that separates the candidates. After reading Dr. Tedros’ s program, the vision he has for WHO, his track-record and experiences for spearheading SDGs – I believe cuts him way above the other candidates.
    In Tedros we trust!

  6. This quite clear Dr. Tedros should have to lead the WHO. His knowledge, expreance, leadership and political skills makes him best candidate for WHO. I used to work with him as a chief of staff for the last 3 years and I know his ability to lead an organization like that of WHO. He is visionary and definitely brings change. I give him my fully support.

  7. Indeed, Dr Tedros stands out to best candidate. His track records are reassuring to heal this troubled organisation. Its intended mission are increasingly messed and influenced by lobbystis.

    Good luck Good Man Dr Tedros.

  8. Dr. Tedros is an excellent candidate seeing his excellent track record. It will be injustice for the mankind and human civilization,if he failed to win this election. For the first time in the history,someone from the Africa is going to lead WHO.
    Seeing unprecedented burden of diseases,chaos and power in Africa, Africa should get a chance to be in the driver sit.

    He is a leader with passion, dedication and result.

  9. The countries from the West have to stop double standard and scratch their heads in search of justice at least for once. When one challenges them to give chance to the south, they would say Africans don’t unite. This is as an excuse. Dr Tedros’s vote is a litmus test. Africans are united, creating precedence for future African candidates for high profile global positions to lead and influence issues with excellence.

  10. Dr. Tedros is uniquely qualified based on his outstanding record. Also, on many public occasions that I observed, he radiates Excellence, sound and prudent judgment, balanced and yet clear sense of direction for what he wants to do. As an Ethiopian, I highly respect and admire him for his superlative leadership abilities and commitment to serve my people!

  11. How does the rest of the South fair?
    WHO is highly relevant and indispensable for the developing countries who face the brunt of the disease burden. They should not only receive its support but also cultivate and strengthen it and take the opportunity to lead it. The North should grab the chance to operate on high moral ground. Dr Tedros appears to be best placed to bridge, bring trust and make WHO responsive to the aspirations of all. An excellent gift. My country is committed to do so.

  12. Dr. Tedros is the most qualified’ the most knowledgeable and better equipped and expirienced person to lead the WHO. He is simply an asset to all. Good luck Dr. Tedros

  13. This will be just another landmark test, if Africa has a voice or just the North can lobby anything. On Dr. Tedros is Africa united. In this case supporting him is supporting the WHO as world organization to succeed, since Dr. Tedros can really pull the necessary resources which WHO needs to help and improve health globaly.

  14. As I know Dr. Tedros was play a grate role in Ethiopian Health transformation agenda and specially in malaria control program in north-wast Ethiopia where established sustainable program to control it so he can lead WHO in forwarding way by his leadership capacity and health view point so I hope he is the one who the appropriate guy for this position.
    I wish good luck.

  15. Indeed, all the three candidates are have excellent skill records and profiles. However, Dr Tedros has extra-experience in developing countries (Africa) spreading diseases such as like Malaria, where most of the WHO jobs, will focus. Thus, his extraordinary skills and outstanding experience makes more favorable candidate than the others.

  16. MD,phd Markos Lemma Wesenie
    April 9.2017
    Dr, Tedros Adhanom has a track record of organizational skillsin a grassroot level and achieving meaningful and significant results ahead of schedule and with limited budget in his country in the health sector. Dr Tedros is the most qualified and with an extraordinary organizational skills and long time experience to lead such an organization as The WHO. May God help you to be next elected leader of The WHO

  17. Dr. Tedros is an extraordinary energetic leader. He has an outstanding leadership skills which we saw in reality when he was leading different Ministries in Ethiopia. He is able to successfully complete multiple tasks with favorable results. He has consistently demonstrated an ability to rise any challenge that he must face. If WHO is seeking an appropriate Director, Dr. Tedros is an excellent choice.

  18. We support Dr. Tedros. Highly qualified and very sensitive to the needs of the poorest population. We are confident he will add innovation and social interest to the WHO leadership.
    All of the candidates have exceelent credentals, tough.

  19. I new Dr. Tedros for the last 22 years. Has worked as an expert in the Ministry of Health of Ethiopia, head of Malaria department in Tigray Regional State,Head of the health Bureau, Vice minister then Minister of health of Ethiopia. He has served his country from grass root level to a known world wide professional and leader.
    All these years, he was exemplary because, he always believes in change, strategic in his view and and diplomat in his approach to achieve the change he believes in.
    Dr. Tedros’s leadership has brought outstanding achievement in the reduction of Child mortality in Ethiopia, successful malaria control program, through the health Extension Program which countries in Africa are taking it as a model for reduction of morbidity and mortality in general population and in women and children in particular.
    Though not undermining other Candidates, WHO will best serve for what it stands for with Dr. Tedros’s Leadership.

  20. The WHO DG position had many great contenders. Dr. Tedros brings the unique perspective, unique experience, and leadership critical to keep our world secure from health threats that we are recently experiencing more than ever in the past. We have already been tested with Ebola and now Zika for which our preparedness could have been better. Dr. Tedros’s experience in expanding health systems and building capacity at the grass roots and his diplomatic skills will be what is most needed if and when we have to deal with any global health threat.
    On the personal side I have known Tedros as a young enthusiastic scientist in the late 90s when he fought malaria with evidence based prevention interventions for which he was awarded the ASTMH young investigator of the year award in 2003. I am with all others all over the world who believe that Dr. Tedros is the right person to lead the WHO. Thank you Dr. Tedros for your service to the world.

  21. Dr. Tedros has the knowledge,expirience and background better than the other cadidates to lead . He will make the institution better in all aspects

  22. If the world wants a sustainable health condition in the whole world they should to eradicate or at least minimized the problem of Africa health condition ,it needs the one who is humble in nature , Dr.Tedros Adhanom is professional and experienced in the domain. we need the one who can do his /her best for the world health organization.

  23. Neja J.
    It is clear that Dr. Tewodros’s experience and leadership quality has alteady been tested for atleast a decade. He showed his strategies with remarkable result. As all know, the huge burden on health and healthy working group problem is clearly manifested in Africa. So who will be the best candidate than Dr. Tewodros Adhanom who comes from this continent? Any responsible mind can easily answer this question. Good luck Dr. Tewodros Adhanom and all Ethiopians.

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