The betting was almost done before the vote by secret ballot at the World Assembly currently being held in Geneva: Doctor Tedros, 57, was the only candidate in the running.
A malaria specialist, graduate in immunology and doctor of community health, Dr. Tedros, as he likes to call himself, was Minister of Health and head of diplomacy in his country.
His face has been made familiar around the world by the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, which remains one of his main concerns.
He who poses as a man of peace was marked by a childhood immersed in war but also the conflicts in Ukraine, Yemen, Syria and Ethiopia during his first term.
“Even more than pandemics, war shakes and destroys the foundations on which previously stable societies rested” and conflicts leave “psychological scars that can take years or decades to heal”, Dr Tedros recently asserted, for whom “peace is essential to health”.
These scars are as many sufferings that he himself endured.
“I am a child of war,” the head of the WHO said on Sunday, very moved, at the opening of the World Health Assembly.
– “In the middle of the war” –
“The sound of gunfire and shells whistling through the air, the smell of smoke after impact, tracer bullets in the night sky, fear, pain, loss – these things have remained in me throughout my life, because I was in the middle of the war when I was very young,” he said.
When his mother heard gunshots at night, “she made us sleep under the bed (…) in the hope that we would be protected if a shell fell on our house”.
Years later, with war resurging in Ethiopia in 1998, “that fear” returned when it was her children’s turn to “hide in a bunker”.
And while the Ethiopian region of Tigray, his native region, has been plagued by conflict since the end of 2020, he admits to feeling “the same pain again”.
“I am not only a child of war, it follows me everywhere”.
His childhood was also marked by the death of a brother, due to lack of medication.
– Ethiopia and the United States –
Warm, Dr. Tedros is much appreciated, especially by Africans, for having allowed the gaze of the international community, especially during the pandemic, to turn more towards this continent.
The main criticism came from his own country, with Addis Ababa accusing him of “abusing his position” after his comments on the humanitarian situation in Tigray.
The arrival of Democrat Joe Biden at the White House, who put the United States back in the fold of the WHO, gave him a second wind, while he was constantly attacked by Donald Trump, who had cut the food to the organization he accused of mismanaging the coronavirus pandemic and being too close to Beijing.
The more critical tone of Dr. Tedros towards China, which he considers not to be transparent enough on the origin of the pandemic, has earned him some reprimands from Beijing, which however supports its renewal.
A scandal of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo perpetrated by employees of his organization – among other aid workers – earned him a volley of green wood twice from several dozen member countries, who deemed his reaction too soft and too slowly.
The pandemic has shown that his calls often go unheeded.
After a first mandate marked by the Covid, which exposed the shortcomings of the WHO and the global health system, Dr Tedros will have to win the bet of strengthening the UN agency in particular to better prevent and manage future epidemics. .