World Health Day: Dr. Tedros Adhanom’s Pursuit for Healthcare Equality 

April 7th marks the day that the World Health Organization (WHO) was founded in 1948. This year, WHO will observe…

April 7th marks the day that the World Health Organization (WHO) was founded in 1948. This year, WHO will observe its 76th anniversary under the theme “My health, my right”. To mark the World Health Day 2024, Tigray Disaster Relief Fund (TDRF) highlights the story and impact of Tigray’s very own, the Director General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 

“Our vision is not health for some. It’s not health for most. It’s health for all: rich and poor, able and disabled, old and young, urban and rural, citizen and refugee. Everyone, everywhere.”  

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus 

Dr. Tedros has led his career believing that everyone, regardless of where they are from and their status, have the right to quality health care; a principle he deemed important as a child after witnessing children, including his younger brother, dying because of preventable diseases. 

He first started as a field-level malariologist and worked his way up to leading the Tigray Regional Health Bureau and served as Ethiopia’s Minister of Health (2005-2012) and later Minister of Foreign Affairs (2012-2016). During his time as Minister of Health, Dr. Tedros reshaped the country’s health system, building on the foundation of universal health coverage and providing services to all people, including those in rural areas. Under his leadership, the health infrastructure and workforce of Ethiopia expanded, health financing mechanisms were established, and 40,000 female health workers were deployed throughout the country as part of the primary health care extension program. Further, an approximate 60% reduction in child and mortality rate was observed.  

As a Minister of Foreign Affairs, he highlighted health as a political issue, be it nationally, regionally, or globally. He also held other leadership positions in global health such as Chair of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; Chair of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership; and Co-Chair of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Board. 

His journey did not stop there; Dr. Tedros became the first African Director-General of WHO in 2017 and was re-elected for a second term by a strong majority in 2022. Since then, he continues to make substantial impact, most notably: 

  • Prioritized reforming and strengthening the ability of WHO’s emergency response, mobilizing resources, and promoting research and innovation to respond rapidly and effectively to health emergencies, such as Ebola outbreaks and the COVID-19 pandemic.  
  • Achieved Gender parity in senior leadership for the first time under his directorship. He also put in place a new initiative to pay interns a stipend.  
  • Set the training and equipment of health workers worldwide as a priority, the first WHO Academy is under development and will offer in-person and online courses to millions of health workers around the world.  
  • Received numerous honorary degrees and recognitions across world-class universities and institutions. Some of which are the Special Director-General’s Award, Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown, and TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2020. 

It is safe to say that one of the main challenges Dr. Tedros faced to date during his tenure is the COVID-19 pandemic, where he led the response efforts of WHO. As the Chief of WHO, he played a central role in guiding global efforts to control the spread of the virus, mitigate its impact, and support countries in managing the crisis.  

Growing up as a “child of war”, Dr. Tedros is always vocal about addressing global crises affecting vulnerable populations, from the worsening conflict in Sudan to the war in Ukraine. He was one of the high-profile advocates who constantly called for an end to the Tigray Genocide that began in November 2020, which he described as “worse than any other humanitarian crisis in the world”.  

As an ethnic Tigrayan, Dr. Tedros faced the same challenges as Tigrayans worldwide; losing family members, not being able to help his relatives in the besieged region, and ethnic profiling, to name a few. However, that did not stop him from being consistent in his work. He also highlighted the inequality of attention and treatment given to people in crisis based on the colour of their skin. Not only to the people of Tigray but also the ongoing crises other parts of the world like Congo, Afghanistan, and Yemen. Having experienced war first hand, he also emotionally pled to the international community to put a stop to the “hellish” situation that Palestinians are currently in. 

TDRF embraces the vision of “Saving Lives, Inspiring Generations” by improving the well-being of communities in Tigray through heath, education, and economic relief efforts. TDRF recognizes and stands behind the WHO and Dr. Tedros’s dedication to ensuring equitable access to quality healthcare and education globally, while also advocating for the end of crises worldwide.