Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the first African to head the WHO, was re-elected on Tuesday, tearfully accepting a second term as he recalled his humble upbringing as “a child of war” and pleading for peace.
His re-election was announced at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland, after he received more than two-thirds of secret-ballot votes cast, as needed to be appointed.
The WHO did not provide a breakdown, but sources in the room said that he had received 155 of the 160 votes cast.
“I am really, really overwhelmed by the support,” Tedros told the WHA. “I am really proud to be WHO.”
The former Ethiopian minister of health and of foreign affairs has become a familiar face worldwide as he spearheads the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 57-year-old malaria expert has also increasingly been sounding the alarm over the heavy toll that conflicts such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are taking on global health.
After accepting his re-election, Tedros made an impassioned and personal plea for peace.
He said that he himself had been “a child of war ... from a poor family.”
He recalled experiencing conflict at a young age and also losing his younger brother to disease.
“That I was spared was just pure luck. It could have been me, I could have died more than 50 years ago,” he said, describing how the strong emotions from that time rushed back during a visit to Ukraine.
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