LOS ANGELES -- June 23, 2021
As the process to appoint a new Director-General of the World Health
Organization (WHO) gets underway, United Nations Member States must consider a
change in leadership at the WHO, according to AIDS Healthcare Foundation
(AHF), the world’s largest provider of HIV/AIDS care globally. The appointment
of the next WHO Director-General is slated for May 2022 after the current WHO
chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, completes his first term by the end of
“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary leadership, which is why
we need a new candidate to head up the WHO. When looking at some of the most
glaring missteps in the global response to COVID-19, it’s clear that following
the same path will not end the pandemic anytime soon,” said AHF President
Michael Weinstein. “When billions of lives are on the line, a WHO leader must
be unencumbered by allegiances to anyone but his duties to openly speak and do
whatever is necessary to protect global public health. Sadly, that hasn’t been
the case in the ongoing pandemic.”
The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that when the pandemic called for bold
leadership and innovative thinking, the WHO repeatedly became mired in
international politics and bureaucracy, instead of quickly implementing
critical public health measures. These repeated failures leave the world
vulnerable to new and ongoing health emergencies unless an independent and
proactive leader is put in charge of the WHO.
“The entire world has felt the ramifications of the slow response to COVID-19,
but the long-term economic and social impact on Africa will be particularly
acute given the current vaccine shortages,” said AHF Africa Bureau Chief Dr.
Penninah Iutung. “If we are to truly protect the health of the entire world,
the WHO must be led by someone beyond reproach who is willing to speak up no
matter the circumstances. The past mistakes with COVID-19 and other infectious
disease outbreaks over the past half-decade make it clear WHO must change its
The following six reasons underscore why WHO needs a new Director-General:
1. WHO delayed declaring COVID-19 a pandemic.
Despite the spread of COVID-19 to multiple countries, the WHO waited until
March 11, 2020, to declare a pandemic, 40 days after declaring it a Public
Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
2. Lack of transparency regarding the origin of COVID-19.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus repeatedly praised China for
acting quickly and transparently, even though it denied scientists access to
vital data on the origins of the outbreak.
3. Inability to mobilize and coordinate resources to help low- and
COVAX expects to provide enough vaccines to protect 20% of people in 92
lower-income nations, but WHO says that to stop COVID-19, at least 70% of
people need to be vaccinated.
4. Delays in vaccine approvals.
It took the WHO four months, until April 30, to authorize the Moderna COVID-19
vaccine for emergency use after it was already approved for emergency use by
the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
5. Lack of authoritative guidance in preventing and responding to public
Without consistent guidance from the WHO on case reporting, travel
restrictions, protective equipment, and the use of various drugs like
Ibuprofen or dexamethasone, nearly every country acted on its own, creating
6. Failure to implement previous proposals to radically reform WHO.
After the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak and other recent health emergencies,
numerous proposals were drafted calling for reforms of the WHO to be better
prepared to fight pandemics. Few substantive reforms were ever implemented,
leaving the world vulnerable to COVID-19.
At the 75th World Health Assembly in May 2022, Member States will have an
opportunity to decide who will lead the WHO for the next five years. Their
choice must be transparent and informed by the past performance of WHO
leadership and whether it has delivered on its mission of protecting global
health. If it has not, as the evidence suggests, then Member States have an
obligation to their citizens to ensure that a more capable leader is
appointed, as the world is still trying to come to grips with COVID-19. Member
States can submit the names of possible candidates to the WHO Executive Board
until mid-September 2021.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization,
currently provides medical care and/or services to over 1.5 million clients in
45 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the
Asia/Pacific Region and Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our
website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth
and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare and Instagram: @aidshealthcare
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US MEDIA CONTACT:
Ged Kenslea, Senior Director, Communications, AHF
+1.323.308.1833 work +1.323.791.5526 mobile
Denys Nazarov, Director of Global Policy &