World leaders and analysts have complemented the work of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus who was elected for another term as Director-General of the World Health Organization. These complements are not just limited to his recent work but began almost twenty years ago beginning with his appointment to the Ethiopian Ministry of Health and continuing during his subsequent office of Minister of Foreign Affairs. Complaints by malcontents at the current Ethiopian government of covert actions have never been proven. At the same time Dr. Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus has fully cooperated with international NGOs and the UN to send aid to Amhara, Afar, and other regions of Ethiopia while the Ethiopian government blocked similar aid to Tigray. I was fortunate to share a table with him at an African Union summit on health care development about 8 years ago. He is articulate and driven by a higher sense of duty not just to Tigray, Ethiopia, or Africa but to mankind.
The expansion of Ethiopia’s health care system commenced in 2004, when over 30 000 Health Extension Workers were trained and deployed in Ethiopia and over 2500 health centers and 15 000 village-level health posts were constructed. Some analysts have attributed Ethiopia’s successful reforms a to strong leadership and “political will”. However an academic study of these reforms by Kevin Croke from the Harvard Department of Global Health and Population at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health determined that the reality was there was more to the story then will. This analysis was published in December 2020 in Health Policy and Planning. The focus on rural development and stressing the primacy of development as well building alliances among different regions as developed by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus is what drove the success in reform. The WHO Director-General has been tested with the Ebola crisis, COVID 19, immunizations, global health inequity, and other issues yet he has stayed on course.
Today the Ministry of Health has been mostly Addis Ababa centric. The level of spending per capita for health care has gone down from $23 to $18. Even though Tigray is claimed to be a part of Ethiopia no expenditure is currently directed there for any government activity including health care. What aid that comes issues from the World Health Organization, International Red Cross, and other international sources.
After becoming Foreign Minister in 2005 where he served until 2012 he expanded his advocacy for health care development in underdeveloped nations not just in Ethiopia. He joined in international efforts to deal with malaria, tuberculosis, HIV-AIDS setting in motion movements to control these maladies with good results. To some extent this has followed a general trend in public health among academics to place health care front and center in political considerations for funding and priority.
Dr. Tedros as he is known in Tigray where use of first names is matter of custom was unanimously elected again because of his history of accomplishments recognized by health authorities and elected leaders except for Ethiopia who judges him wrongly because he is Tigrayan.