By: Staff The Associated Press
GENEVA — The Latest on the annual World Health Assembly in Geneva (all times local):
About 200 people in Geneva are waving flags and banners to protest a former Ethiopian health minister’s bid to lead the World Health Organization.
The rally Monday against Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus outside U.N. offices came at the start of a 10-day meeting of the World Health Organization’s governing body, which will elect its next director-general on Tuesday.
Ghebreysus is competing against Britain’s David Nabarro and Sania Nishtar of Pakistan for the five-year post. Dr. Margaret Chan is leaving after a decade in the job.
An Ethiopian human rights task force distributed fliers accusing Ghebreysus of being an “agent” of “one of the most brutal repressive regimes in the world.”
The demonstrators shouted “Tedros is a killer!” and other chants. One demonstrator shouted his opposition from a balcony inside the hall before Chan was to speak.
Devi Sridhar, a professor in global public health at the University of Edinburgh, has described the yearly $200 million travel costs of the World Health Organization as documented by the Associated Press as “extremely high.”
Compared with the considerably lesser amount that the U.N. health agency spends on major diseases including AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, Sridhar said that “budgets reveal priorities” and warned that donors not happy with WHO’s spending habits could simply go elsewhere.
Sridhar said there is likely an organization-wide problem at the U.N. that isn’t exclusive to the WHO.
“People know these U.N. jobs can be cushy and come with perks, that you get to travel business class and stay at nice hotels,” she said. Sridhar said that lack of scrutiny at U.N. agencies is a problem and that the organizations should be subject to independent auditors and freedom of information laws.
While Sridhar said that banning business class travel and five-star hotels might enrage WHO staffers, the agency’s next director-general, who will be elected Tuesday, shouldn’t shy away from making such radical changes.
“It would send a powerful signal from the top,” she said.
Dr. Margaret Chan has given her last address as director-general of the World Health Organization at its annual gathering of member states in Geneva.
Chan said that despite criticism of the U.N. health agency in recent years — most notably in its fumbled response to the 2014 Ebola disaster in West Africa — the agency remains relevant. Chan said she was “personally accountable” for the agency’s failures during the outbreak.
During her speech to the representatives of WHO’s 194 member states, Chan said the world was fortunate other new diseases like Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome and bird flu are not spreading easily between people, but they have the potential to do so.
Chan said the initiatives she most wants to succeed are those aimed at eradicating polio and guinea worm.
Taiwan’s health minister says China has “unfairly blocked” the island’s government from taking part in the annual meeting of the World Health Organization’s governing body.
Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung spoke Monday to reporters in Geneva moments before the start of the 10-day World Health Assembly, insisting that Taiwan had contributions to offer and accusing Beijing of playing politics with health.
Taiwan isn’t a U.N. member state but was granted assembly “observer status” between 2009 and 2016 under an arrangement on the “One China” principlefavoured by Beijing. But China has accused the year-old government of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen of reneging on that principle.
As the assembly began, China and Cuba spoke in favour of Taiwan’s exclusion, while St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Palau defended Taiwan’s bid.