By F. A. Wondmagegn, February 1st, 2017
I am very surprised to learn that my former boss and health minister Dr. Tedros adhanom is one of the three top contenders to lead the WHO. He was not my immediate boss, but I was hired and started working as public health officer, when he was the head of the Ethiopian ministry of health. He started the campaign Mainstreaming Hygiene and sanitation into preventive Health Care Programs. Simply the motto was “Let’s prevent communicable disease by washing our hands”. The campaign and the idea were great. However, access to clean water in Addis Ababa and the rest of Ethiopia at large, is still a huge challenge. Hence, the campaign was an exercise in futility. In this short article, I want to emphasis how Ethiopia’s preventative health care policy under Dr. Adhanom was simply marketing his political persona than benefiting the public.
After graduating with a degree, in public health, I was hired by one of the local community health care centers that are established primarily to provide preventative health care. These centers were mostly built during Dr. Tedros Adhanoms reign as health minister of Ethiopia. Even though he was a political appointee with no experience in health care, Dr.Tedros was lucky to have the international community pouring millions of dollars of donation to support the Ethiopian health care system from the AIDS and Malaria crises that engulfed the nation in the mid-90s.
Thousands of primary health care centers were built all over Ethiopia, and Addis Ababa particularly. Most of these buildings were built by contactors owned by the political party that Dr. Adhanom was representing. I will not go into the details of how these substandard two and three floor buildings were built to show how the government was investing in health care. The devil is in the detail. As a young health care practitioner with ambition to help the public, I was enthusiastic to give my best knowledge in to practice. The two-story building that housed about 25 health care providers, has no the bare necessities a health care office should have. In the very small room I was assigned to see patients, consumable health care items such as sterile gloves, paper exam gowns and covers for exam tables, cotton swabs, gauze, tongue depressors, alcohol prep pads, sample containers, chemical test strips, suturing equipment, syringes, disposable instruments, stethoscope, water sink, and restroom supplies were non-existent. This is a fact in most health care centers in Ethiopia.
Imagine, treating a patient with communicable disease and don’t have even a place to wash your hands. I am not trying to compare North American health centers to one in Ethiopia. However, what is the point of building substandard health care facilities with no or very limited equipments that will help you provide health care to the public. I do remember many nights that we used our smart phone flashlights to help delivering babies. Those of us, who openly crossed (what do you mean by cross) the absence of bare medical necessities were labeled as opposition sympathizer’s and passed for promotions or personal development courses.
According to an article posted on Addis Standard on September 27, 2016, Girma Gutema wrote Dr. Tedros left the Ethiopian health sector very much politicized and crippled, which must be yet depoliticized if it has to function properly. The more than 35,000 female health extension workers trained for six months and deployed across Ethiopia during his tenure, which many praises him for, are more of political cadres who are deployed in rural household families to serve the TPLF than helping health workers.” It is far-fetched to label all of us as political cadres. However, as a primary health care provider, my fellow health care workers and I felt as soldiers sent to a war without any guns.
Dr. Tedros is smart hiring marketing and public relation firms for publicizing his empty campaigns on various health issues. Wash your hand to prevent disease where water is scarce and building health care centers with no health care necessities. I have heard of cases where women were told to bring water during their child delivery. The alleged progresses in the health care sector for which Dr. Tedros was appreciated are only empty propaganda. The data are false and manipulated to fit into the agenda of the ruling party. I am a living witness of the poor status of the Ethiopian health care system.
The World Health Organization needs someone capable and knowledgeable about health care. I am against the election of Tedros Adhanom. If Tedros is elected, then WHO will be choosing impunity over accountability and incompetency over fitness. Dr. Tedros does not have the required knowledge and to lead WHO. In addition to being a Minister of Health, Dr. Tedros was serving as a Minister of Foreign Affairs of one of the most oppressive and repressive government in Africa. He is known for attempting to justify the human rights violations in Ethiopia. Putting at the top of WHO will only signify WHO’s endorsement of dictatorship.
The election of Dr. Tedros as head of the WHO will add insult to injury to the Ethiopian people who are being ruled by an iron fist by his political party, the Tigrai People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Dr Tedros, politically and ethnically belongs to the group of a few TPLF high-ranking individuals who reign Ethiopia with impunity. It will be a disgrace and a mere contempt to even consider Dr. Tedros for such a position that requires humanity, equity and concern for the weak and destitute. WHO, as a leading world health organization should not taint its image and reputation by inviting such a mean, cruel and shrewd individual to assume a powerful and sensitive occupation.
Dr. Tedros and his government should not be allowed to use WHO as a tool to disguise their true color and present them selves as conscientious citizens. It is morally and humanly wrong to appoint any individual for such position with a record of human rights violations and persecutions. The world needs great global state men and women. There is no place for ethnically narrow, repressive, oppressive and divisive individuals in our times. “One who can not clean his own back yard can not clean someone else’s.” Therefore, Dr. Tedros Adhanom should not be allowed to take any position in the WHO and representatives who vote in the election must not give their vote to Tedros Adhanom.
By F. A. Wondmagegn, February 1st, 2017