The World Health Organization (WHO) elected a new Director-General in Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He is the first African elected to the position in the organisation’s 70-year history. Dr Tedros is Ethiopia’s former health minister. It was described as a tense vote, as he was accused in the later stages of the campaign of covering up cholera epidemics in Ethiopia.
In what is perhaps convenient timing, the Associated Press just accused WHO of spending US$200 million per year on staff travel. This is according to internal documents obtained by the Associated Press. It compares very unfavourably to the organisation’s budget for malaria in which US$61 million was spent in 2016. WHO’s annual budget is funded by taxpayer-supplied foreign aid from 194 member countries. Recently, the organisation appealed for over US$800 million to respond to the growing health crisis in Syria and refugee-hosting nations in the region.
In 2014, WHO was slammed for its slow, inadequate and underwhelming response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. A United Nations-sponsored report stated that the crisis “exposed the organizational failings in the functioning of WHO” and that “WHO does not currently possess the capacity or organizational culture to deliver a full emergency public health response”. This was a interim report published while the crisis continued to unfold. It was described as a defining moment for the organisation, and the report noted at that time funding for emergency response was lacking with no core funds set aside for emergency response.
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