Health for all is a rights issue, says new WHO chief

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Ethiopian former health and foreign minister Dr Tedros is the new head of the World Health Organization. Photo: UN Photo/Daniel Johnson

Outside Ethiopia, the name Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus might not be that familiar, but it is one we'll be hearing a lot more of, now that he's been elected head of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Dr Tedros takes over from Dr Margaret Chan; she ran the UN health agency for 10 years.

He outlined his priorities to journalists in Geneva, where he stressed the need for Member States to provide health care for all and to implement international health regulations.

Daniel Johnson has more.

In Ethiopia, it's customary to use your first given name, and that's what the new head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Tedros suggested was best when talking about him.

Addressing the challenges that lie ahead may be less straightforward, since Dr Tedros said that the original reason why the UN health agency was set up nearly 70 years ago remained true today: providing healthcare for all.

"All roads should lead to universal health coverage", Dr Tedros insisted in Geneva, and this mantra should be the WHO's "centre of gravity":

"What the world has promised in 1948 – health for all – when WHO was instituted is true today, but still half of our population does not have access to healthcare, universal health coverage…I think it's time to walk our talk and the whole world is asking for that…health as a rights issue, an end in itself."

Another key WHO mission is managing global health emergencies, Dr Tedros said, pointing to changes put in place by his predecessor Dr Margaret Chan, that had led to the swift detection of the current Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

But more reforms need to be made, the new WHO head insisted – a likely reference to the need for governments to fast-track internationally agreed regulations to deal with epidemics better in future.

Dr Tedros said that another major issue was regaining confidence in Member States and ensuring the best use of their contributions.

Duration: 1'34"




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