Pakistan

Former minister among six candidates running for WHO top job

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GENEVA: Six candidates are in the running to take over the helm of the World Health Organization,  including former health minister of Pakistan Sania Nishtar, one of only two women on the list.

The other woman is Flavia Bustreo, who was proposed by Italy and who is currently serving as WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Family, Women’s and Children’s Health.

WHO’s 194 member states had until the end of the day on Thursday to propose candidates to replace Director General Margaret Chan, who will step down next June after 11 years in the role.

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The list of people to replace her includes Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom, who enjoys the unanimous backing of the African Union and is bidding to be the first African to hold the position.

The renowned malaria researcher and former health minister from 2005-2012 was among the first to throw his name into the hat, but he will face competition from rivals proposed by France, Italy, Pakistan, Britain and Hungary.

The WHO is a vast UN agency with an annual budget of 4.4 billion dollars (3.9 billion euros) that is responsible for coordinating global emergencies and raising awareness about health issues from pollution to tropical diseases.

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It was heavily criticised for its slow response to the Ebola epidemic in west Africa, which has killed more than 11,000 people since late 2013. Chan has admitted mistakes were made.

France has proposed former health minister Philippe Douste-Blazy to replace her, while another insider is David Nabarro, who among other things organised the UN’s response to the west African Ebola

epidemic in 2014, and who was proposed by Britain. Hungary has put forward former health minister Miklos Szocska.

WHO said a shortlist of three would be presented in May at the agency’s annual World Health Assembly, which will make the final appointment. The new Director General will take the helm of the organisation on July 1.

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