The director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, plans to run for a second 5-year term as the head of the agency, Stat News reported on Monday, citing a person familiar with the matter.
Tedros has been the public face of the agency’s efforts to deal with the coronavirus ever since the new SARS-CoV-2 virus emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
Ethiopia’s Tedros, as he is widely known, in 2017 became the first African to head the Geneva-based UN agency and made universal healthcare coverage his top priority.
The WHO did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment ahead of a regular news conference starting at 1400 GMT.
The Stat report said it is unclear at this point whether others will emerge to challenge Tedros.
Diplomats told Reuters Tedros’ support among African nations would be paramount to any re-election, while doubting he could count on support from his home country which nominated him last time.
They said Ethiopia’s military accused him in November of supporting and trying to procure diplomatic backing and arms for Tigray state’s dominant political party, which is fighting federal forces. Tedros has denied taking sides in the conflict in Ethiopia.
Tedros, whose global profile has risen dramatically during the pandemic, traveled to Beijing in January 2020 to hold talks with President Xi Jinping and ensure its cooperation and sharing of information, just before declaring a worldwide health emergency.
The Trump administration accused Tedros and the World Health Organization of being “China-centric” – allegations they rejected – and stopped U.S. contributions while starting the process of leaving the agency. The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden announced immediately after taking office in January that it would remain a member and fulfill its financial obligations while working on reforms.
Tedros distanced himself from the findings of a WHO-led mission this year, written jointly with Chinese scientists, that investigated the origins of the virus. The report issued on March 30 noted that the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal, and that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely” as a cause.
He said data had been withheld from the team and that the lab issue required more investigation.