WHO assembly set to choose next chief among 3 candidates

As Minister of Health, Ethiopia, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus led a comprehensive reform effort of the country's health system, including the expansion of the country's health infrastructure, creating 3,500 health centres and 16,000 health posts; expanded the health workforce by 38,000 health extension workers; and initiated financing mechanisms to expand health insurance coverage.

He will be the first non-medical doctor and the first African to lead the United Nations health agency.

The U.N. agency's chief has considerable power to set global medical priorities and declare health emergencies, such as outbreaks of the Zika or Ebola viruses.

In her final address as head of the global health organization, Chan urged WHO to "remember the people" behind the facts and figures.

In his address to delegates, Tedros, the only non-medical doctor in the race, said it was nearly "pure luck" that he was competing to lead WHO.

Dr Tedros, an Ethiopian politician who served as Health Minister for seven years (2005-2012), and later Foreign Affairs Minister, is also a respected public health authority.

The two-term World Health Organization chief, who served for 10 years in office, took personal responsibility for the WHO's delayed response in 2014 to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Of the United Nations health agency's 194 member states, 185 were eligible to cast ballots; nine others either were in arrears on their dues or not represented at the gathering. Nine others are either in arrears on their dues or not represented at the 10-day gathering. "He succeeded in Ethiopia, making remarkable health progress by rapidly reforming a sclerotic bureaucracy and implementing effective community-based services". About 200 protesters demonstrated Monday against his bid outside the U.N.'s Geneva offices.

Tuesday marks the first time member states will actually get to choose between several finalists.

The malaria specialist enjoys strong backing from across Africa, but he also faces allegations he downplayed cholera outbreaks in Ethiopia with disastrous consequences - something he has denied.

Jean-Marie Ehouzou, the African Union's top envoy in Geneva, expressed "happiness, happiness, happiness" at the result.

He noted that when he was growing up in Ethiopia, his 7-year-old brother was killed by a common childhood disease, and it easily could have been him. He did not specify the disease.

Kenya pitched for Ethiopian Tedros Adhanom to be the next head of the World Health Organisation because he has "connections" with people who have suffered many health disasters.

"We live in a changing world, and the WHO must be able to change with it", Tedros said in his vision statement, citing new health threats brought about through globalisation, climate change and unhealthy lifestyles.

Cheng reported from London.

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