ADDS QUOTES FROM WHO CHIEF
By Peter Kenny
GENEVA (AA) - World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus broke into tears Tuesday making a speech in Geneva after he was reelected to head the world health agency for a second five-year term.
The celebration was marred when his country of Ethiopia, and neighboring Eritrea refused to accept a congratulatory speech that was to have been delivered on behalf of the 47 African countries at the WHO.
Tedros, who was first elected in 2017, was the sole candidate and was reelected during the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA) and spoke of the impression that a visit to war-torn Ukraine had on him last week.
The WHO chief, an ethnic Tigrayan, told the WHA of being exposed to war as a child and to death in his family, especially his younger brother at an early age, and being from a poor family.
"The combination is bad. That's why when I visited Ukraine when I saw, especially the kids, I felt what I felt,” he said. “It was the image from more than 50 years ago that came to my mind; so visible.”
"So haunting the smell of war, the sound of war. The image of war. I can't even understand; so visible, so clear, and it happened many years ago.
"That's what I don't want to happen to anyone," he said, maybe conscious of the "Health for peace, peace for health" slogan of the 75th WHA assembly, the main decision-making body of the WHO.
Before being appointed WHO Director-General, Tedros served as Ethiopia's Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2012 to 2016 and before that health minister from 2005 to 2012.
He has criticized the current Ethiopian government's handling of the conflict in the Tigray region.
- African group speech thwarted
When Botswana, on behalf of the Africa group at the WHO, tried to make a speech congratulating Tedros, a representative from Ethiopia objected.
"Botswana has not the consensus to speak on behalf of the African group,” said the representative.
"So, there is no consensus to deliver the statement and even speak on behalf of the group. There is no consensus, and I want this to be on record. There is no African region minus some states; there is one African region."
Eritrea also objected, and the Botswana representative said, "I'll be delivering the statement on behalf of the 45 African member states."
"The (WHO) priorities include the prevention and control of neglected tropical diseases as well as communicable and non-communicable diseases, especially those prevalent in the region, and advancing the drive towards universal health coverage," said the Botswana envoy."
As part of his first term, Tedros "instituted a wide-ranging transformation of the WHO, aimed at increasing the Organization's efficiency driving impact at country level to promote healthier lives, protect more people in emergencies and increase equitable access to health," according to a statement.
He guided the agency's response "to the COVID-19 pandemic, outbreaks of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the health impacts of multiple other humanitarian crises."