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WHO chief Tedros selects new leadership team, document shows

file photo: world health organization director general tedros adhanom ghebreyesus attends a news conference in geneva
FILE PHOTO: World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus [REUTERS]

The World Health Organization’s chief has provisionally appointed several new top managers, a document showed on Friday, as he seeks to cope with growing post-pandemic health challenges and respond to donor pressure for efficiency.

The appointments come as Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s second term as the leader of the 74-year-old UN health agency gets underway amid private criticism by some donors that the management is too bloated.

Tedros, who has not publicly commented on the shake-up, announced the departure of a team of nine senior officials, including former chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan, in an email to staff in November.

Donors say they expect several posts not to be replaced.

A separate email dated November 30 seen by Reuters showed Australia’s Dr. John Reeder, who formerly worked in the tropical diseases division, would be appointed acting head of the science division.

The WHO did not respond to a request for comment.

The shake-up is one of the biggest in the organisation’s history, said Lawrence Gostin, a professor at Georgetown Law in Washington D.C. who follows the organisation closely.

“Any leader will make changes in a second term. Another reason is there is criticism from powerful member states that it is too top heavy and needs to be streamlined,” he said.

The new appointments announced are ‘ad interim’ and might be changed again. This follows a recent request from WHO member states who finance the organisation to oversee such appointments and ensure they are done in a fair and transparent manner.

The United States is No. 2 donor to the organisation, followed by Germany.

Other appointments include Dr Hanan Balkhy as head of access to medicines, Dr Tereza Kasaeva as head of universal health coverage and communicable and non-communicable disease, and Dr. Bruce Aylward as lead for the external relations and governance team.

“It’s been encouraging that Tedros has a plan for, or a vision for leadership, moving into the future,” Loyce Pace, Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs at the US Department of Health told reporters.

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