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New WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom of Ethiopia takes office

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The new Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom, took over managing the UN health agency on Saturday, UN WHO has announced.A specialist in malaria, Tedros served as health minister and later as foreign minister of Ethiopia.

The 52-year-old is the first African to head the global health organization, and he takes over from Margaret Chan of China, who led WHO for nearly 10 years.

Dr Tedros was elected to the post in May, in what was the first time the WHO director-general was chosen by the World Health Assembly from among multiple candidates. Previously a single nominee had been chosen by the executive board.

The Geneva-based WHO, with some 8,000 employees worldwide, is responsible for coordinating global action on disease outbreaks and epidemics such as Ebola, and to set the norms for health systems in all countries.

After his election as head of the UN agency, Dr Tedros said achieving universal health coverage would be a top priority during his five-year term.

“Globally an estimated 400 million, approximately 1 in 17 people, lack access to essential health services, that’s unacceptable,” he declared.

As Ethiopia’s health minister between 2005 and 2012, he hugely expanded healthcare in the country; created 3,500 health centers, while dramatically expanding the healthcare workforce. He was also credited with building more medical schools, and deploying nearly 40,000 community-based health workers across the country.

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