The African at the heart of the coronavirus fight, is an Ethiopian named, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is also the first African head of the World Health Organisation (WHO). He assumed office two-and-a-half years ago promising to reform the health organization, and to tackle the illnesses that kill millions each year: malaria, measles, childhood pneumonia, or HIV/Aids.
Since assuming office, has Ghebreyesustedly worked hard on those illnesses. His time in office has been dominated first by Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been contained.
“Charming” and “unassuming” are some of the words often used to describe the 55-year-old.
Before assuming the position as the head of the WHO he climbed through the ranks of Ethiopia’s government, becoming a health minister and later foreign minister. He could not have risen that far by being self-effacing and not worthy of the position.
Dr. Tedros, born in 1965 in Asmara, which later became Eritrea’s capital after independence from Ethiopia in 1991, grew up in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
One of his formative, and now motivating experiences, was the death of his younger brother at the hands of measles, who was almost 4-year-old. “I didn’t accept it; even now I don’t accept it,” he was quoted as saying, adding that it was unpleasant that a child should die from a preventable disease just because he was born in a bad place.
Since 2005 as an health minister, he has been praised for reforming the health sector and enhancing access to health care and its facility in Ethiopia, Africa’s most populated state after Nigeria.
At the dawn of each day, he gives a press conference, every day his words are flashed around the universe. And despite the pressure to come up with answers, despite the constant media spotlight, he remains quiet and friendly.
The end of each press conference is always the same; a gathering of papers, a smile, and “see you tomorrow”.