COTONOU, Benin (AP) – As Ebola continued to burn its way through three West African countries, voting began Wednesday to elect the next World Health Organization’s Africa director at a meeting in Benin.
Representatives from WHO’s 46 member countries in Africa were choosing from among five candidates running for the post of regional director.
The outgoing leader, Angolan doctor Luis Sambo, was criticised for initially bungling WHO’s response to the biggest Ebola outbreak in history.
Among those seeking to replace him are: Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, a Congolese doctor in charge of the vaccination programme at WHO Geneva, Mali’s Dr Fatoumata Nafo Traore, director of the Roll Back Malaria partnership, Dorothee Akoko Kinde-Gazard, Benin’s health minister, Therese N’Dri Yoman of Cote d’Ivoire, a past health minister, and Dr Matshidiso Moeti of Botswana, who previously ran the country’s epidemiology department.
WHO’s Africa office is widely acknowledged to be the agency’s weakest regional office, among five others which are all largely autonomous and do not answer to the WHO headquarters in Geneva.
In an internal draft document obtained by the Associated Press last month, WHO blamed its staff in Africa for initially botching the response to Ebola, describing many of its regional staff as “politically-motivated appointments” and noted numerous complaints about WHO officials in West Africa.
Whoever is chosen as Africa’s new WHO head probably won’t have a big role in ending Ebola since the UN has already taken charge of control efforts, but the new director could be key to preventing similar disasters in the future.