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WHO leader is stuck between feuding China and US. It's a situation 'rock star' Tedros has spent his life preparing for

August 1, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was watching late-night television when he saw a hospital boss criticizing him and Ethiopia's Health Ministry, which he was leading at the time, for doing a terrible job. Instead of responding with a furious diatribe, as some political leaders might when watching their detractors on TV, he contacted the man, Dr. Kesete Admasu.

(CNN)Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was watching late-night television when he saw a hospital boss criticizing him and Ethiopia's Health Ministry, which he was leading at the time, for doing a terrible job.

"Tedros called him in and said, well, if you have ideas and you're critical get in here and help us fix it, and made him Deputy Minister, which gives you a sense of his leadership style in bringing in the smartest and the best and empowering them," United States diplomat Mark Dybul, a professor at the Georgetown University Medical Center and co-director of the Center for Global Health Practice and Impact, told CNN.

"I think he's doing an incredible job," Peggy Clark, Executive Director of the Aspen Global Innovators Group who has worked closely with Tedros, told CNN.

Tedros said that could easily have been him, and it was "pure luck" that he was now on stage running for a global leadership position.

As a child living in Eritrea, then a region of Ethiopia, the WHO filtered into his consciousness, Tedros said in a speech last year.

"There were really only a handful of ministers of health, globally, who were really doing exceptional work in the developing world, and one was Minister Tedros," said Clark.

Clark believes Tedros's health worker program made a profound difference to a poor country, and he announced similar priorities around universal healthcare, women and children and health emergencies on taking office at WHO.

Many leaders in developing countries were dependent on wooing donors, said Clark,"but Tedros was so revered and beloved, he could literally walk into a room with donors and walk out with a multimillion-dollar check. "

Teshome Gebre, then the Carter Center's Ethiopia representative for health programs, visited Tedros with his US bosses in 2006 to solicit help with tackling neglected tropical diseases.

Georgetown University professor Lawrence Gostin, a supporter of Tedros's WHO leadership rival David Nabarro, told CNN he was worried at the time because of Ethiopia's "abysmal human rights record. "

Gostin -- director of the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, now a WHO Collaborating Center -- had reservations over alleged cover-ups of cholera outbreaks in Ethiopia, which Tedros denies.

Gostin now speaks with Tedros regularly and calls him an "extraordinarily good" leader, and "one of the strongest director-generals in recent memory. "

When a public health emergency was declared, Tedros called in from the DRC, said Gostin.

Tedros has not been as full of praise for the effective pandemic response of Taiwan, a territory that China has successfully blocked from WHO membership, said Gostin.

Tedros said at the time: "Such restrictions can have the effect of increasing fear and stigma, with little public health benefit. "

Dybul says Tedros has rapidly reoriented WHO from its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, by placing staff in countries where health problems are, much as he did in Ethiopia, making the WHO able to respond rapidly to Ebola and the coronavirus.

The dispute between the US and China is of course complex, but Tedros is trying to get on with the job as the future of the world hangs in the balance.

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