An Open Letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, HE Antonio Guterres
May 17, 2017
H.E Antonio Guterres
Secretary General of the United Nations
The search for the director General of the World Health Organization has come down to three finalists, all excellent public servants and well regarded health professionals. The campaign however has taken an ugly turn as it heats up in the final days before member nations are due to vote. The scurrilous and unfounded charges levelled by Dr. Nabarro’s advisor against the frontrunner, the highly respected former health and foreign minister of Ethiopia and the unanimous choice of Africa, Dr. Tedros Adhanom should be a matter of concern for the UN.
As Diaspora Civil Society leaders in these United States, very rarely do we comment on personnel matters. However, the ugly nature of this search process that is making the rounds in main stream and social media has forced us to write this open letter to you. Needless to say, it is a matter of grave concern and urgency to our diversified constituencies throughout the world.
The article accuses Dr. Tedros without substantiation, of concealing cholera outbreaks in Ethiopia while he was health minister. This smear campaign against a candidate with a stellar record, admired by international governmental and nongovernmental organizations alike for his innovative and result oriented approach to health problems in a country with a heavy disease burden is beyond the pale. That this comes from the campaign staff of Dr. Nabarro, a sitting UN official blemishes not only Dr. Nabarro but drags the UN itself, putting its integrity and impartiality into question. Dr. Nabarro has to denounce such tactics and the UN needs to distance itself from this reprehensible mudslinging coming from the campaign offices by one of its officials.
As to the baseless charges, I believe the letter to the editor in response by Dr. Thomas Frieden, the head of CDC in the Obama administration, should put the matter to rest. He says “Cholera can be a devastating disease, but rapid action saves lives and stops outbreaks. Dr. Tedros created a network of nearly 40,000 female community health workers who were trained, supported and supervised to implement programs, including oral rehydration therapy, that prevent death from diarrhea and other causes.”
Andrew Mitchell UK’s international development secretary between 2010 and 2012 in his article “The WHO failed on Ebola. With a future pandemic inevitable it needs reform” said, “Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has the potential and the ability to truly transform the WHO. By doing so we will improve the health of billions of people around the world”
Former President Bill Clinton characterizes Dr. Tedros, as one of the ablest public servants he have ever worked with, and former President George Bush, addressing the 17th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA 2013) told the audience in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: “You’ve got a minister of health that is one of the best in the world: Dr. Tedros.”
As leaders of Diaspora African organizations and not without a stake in the matter, we cannot remain silent as we witness the character assassination of Africa’s choice to lead WHO.
Disheartened by the seeming lack of urgency bordering on indifference by the world community including WHO during the EVD outbreak in West Africa, we were among the first to bring to the world’s attention the severity, urgency and magnitude of the pandemic that was ravaging Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia by holding a forum on Ebola at the UN on August 27, 2014.. We called then for an immediate robust global response, the establishment of a UN health emergency response team and an African CDC. It wasn’t until August 2014 that WHO declared EVD an international public health emergency by which time close to a 1000 Africans had needlessly lost their lives. The Ebola forum was followed by a Concert held in the General Assembly Hall attended by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, world leaders, UN diplomats, celebrities, civil society leaders and the world press to bring about additional public awareness and plan for the post Ebola rebuilding of the affected countries’ shattered economy and health system.
WHO is at a crossroads and in need of a wholesale overhaul. Dr. Tedros is the only one with the experience, the sensitivity and the creative approach to health problems that could oversee the badly needed reform of WHO to make it more nimble and responsive so as not to repeat the tragedy of the Ebola pandemic which claimed over 11000 lives.
Mohammed A. Nurhussein MD, Chairman United African Congress
Sidique A. Wai, President United African Congress
Dr. Edmund Bourke, Distinguished Prof of Medicine Emeritus at SUNY Downstate and Trustee of the United African Congress
Haregewein Assefa, PhD, RPH, Associate Prof, Touro College of Pharmacy and Trustee of the United African Congress
Gordon H. Tapper, Founder and President Give Them a Hand Foundation
Milton Allimadi, Founder and Publisher Black Star News
Annie Goeke, Co-Founder and President Earth Rights Institute
Dr. Ron Daniels, Chairman Institute of Black World and Convener of Pan African Unity Dialogue
Dr. Bereket Habte-Selassie, Willian E. Leuchtenburg Distinguished Prof of African Studies and Professor of Law, UNC, Chapel Hill
Eric Edwards, Executive Director, Collector and Founder of Cultural Museum of African Art
Henock Zabher MD, Assoc. Prof of Medicine, Interventional Cardiology Heath Science Center, Director Cardiac Catheterization Lab, LSU Health, Shreveport.
Dawd S. Siraj MD, MPH, Prof of Medicine and Infectious Diseases, University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Fouad Sheriff MD, Kaiser Permanente Medical Group
All Permanent Representatives to the UN