Outbreaks of Cholera and Ebola as Race for WHO Chief Gets Nasty

Candidates for the next WHO director-general: David Nabarro, Sania Nishtar and Tedros Adhanom


May 16, 2017 – Next week delegates will gather for the World Health Assembly and vote for a new director-general of the World Health Organization.

The election comes at a time when WHO are dealing with a cholera outbreak in Yemen that risks spreading quickly due to the dire humanitarian crisis there already and the reemergence of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Pakistan’s Sania Nishtar, UK’s David Nabarro and Ethiopia’s Tedros Anhanom are the three vying for the post and this week the race hardened with accusations that Nabarro is running a smear campaign and is also using UN and WHO staff on his campaign, contravening the code of conduct for WHO’s election process.

The charge comes from Mukesh Kapila, a professor of global health at the University of Manchester in England. Kapila tweeted photos of what he says are leaked communications from Nabarro’s team. One of the recipients in a January email from Nabarro to his “Support Team” is Laurence Gostin, a professor of global health at Georgetown University in Washington DC.

The spark for Kapila to make the charge against Nabarro and his team is that Gostin was quoted as the source for an article in the New York Times this week accusing Tedros of covering up cholera outbreaks when he was Ethiopia’s health minister.

Gostin told the paper he went public to protect WHO and that his intervention was not authorized by Nabarro, who also said he did not authorize the release of the accusations.

Kapila has also retweeted several tweets supportive of Tedros’s campaign.

The new director-general will take the reins on July 1 when current DG, China’s Margaret Chan, steps down.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Related: Replacing Vaerie Amos: Political Appointment or Merit Based?