'Dr Tedros', the WHO chief leading the fight against the pandemic

GENEVA (Reuters) - Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization (WHO), has become the public face of the global fight against coronavirus.

FILE PHOTO: Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference on the situation of the coronavirus (COVID-2019), in Geneva, Switzerland, February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Here are some details of his career:

- A former health minister and foreign minister of Ethiopia, he was elected in May 2017 as the WHO’s first African director-general, vowing to make universal health care his central priority.

His surprise appointment that year of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador outraged Western donors and activists and he was forced to withdraw it.

- Tedros, who goes by the name of Dr. Tedros, was born in Asmara, Eritrea. Now 55, he holds a doctorate of philosophy in community health and a master of science in immunology of infectious diseases, both from British universities.

- He is the first director-general in the WHO’s 72-year history not to be a medical doctor. Since taking the helm, he has instituted reforms at the U.N. agency’s headquarters in Geneva and 150 country offices, with a total of 7,000 staff.

- Tedros prides himself on going into the field to support WHO operations, making 10 trips to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo during its 19-month-old Ebola epidemic, now close to being halted.

- Weeks after the new coronavirus emerged in China, he flew to Beijing, returning with lavish praise for the Chinese leadership’s commitment to fighting the disease through drastic lockdowns and other measures.

Lawrence Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown University Law School, told Reuters: “He’s very political, there is no question. And sometimes he is too political.”

“But what I love about him is that he wears his heart on his sleeve. He is out there personally, becoming the face of WHO, the face of the epidemic.”

- Tedros, who now describes the new coronavirus as a pandemic, has voiced concern at the disease’s “alarming levels of spread and severity”, adding: “We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear.”

Editing by Giles Elgood