Three New Leaders Appointed to WHO Senior Team – But Unlikely to be Permanent
A WHO press conference earlier this year.

Professor Hanan Balkhy will step into the shoes of Dr Mariângela Simão, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Assistant Director-General for access to medicines and health products, when she leaves on Thursday, according to WHO sources.

Professor Hanan Balkhy

Currently WHO Assistant Director-General of antimicrobial resistance, Balkhy served as executive director of infection prevention and control in Saudia Arabia for 10 years.

Meanwhile, Australian national Professor John Reeder, WHO’s Director of the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), steps into the Chief Scientist role about to be vacated by Dr Soumya Swaminathan.

Dr Teresa Kasaeva, who directs the WHO’s global TB programme, will replace Dr Ren Minghui as Assistant Director-General for universal health coverage (UHC), and communicable and non-communicable diseases.

It is understood that the three will be acting in the various positions, but the WHO did not respond to Health Policy Watch queries about the appointments or their status.

As Health Policy Watch reported previously, eight members of the WHO’s 16-member senior leadership team at the Geneva headquarters will leave the global body at the end of November.

This is the biggest single leadership change that Tedros has made since 2019, two years after he took office, when he made a set of sweeping changes as part of his “Transformation” agenda for the organization. 

It has been anticipated for months by Geneva insiders who say the Director-General has been itching to shake up his team since being re-elected for a second term. Additionally, there have been pressures from large donors for Tedros to streamline his senior team, which is the largest it has ever been.

All three current appointments are internal, which could indicate that Tedros is responding both to criticism that he has not promoted enough people within WHO’s ranks and to pressure from member states led by the US to trim personnel costs.

Tedros is unlikely to replace Dr Nono Simelela, an Assistant Director-General and special adviser and may also rationalise other posts to save costs.

Other staff departing this week are Jane Ellison, executive director for external relations and governance, Dr Jaouard Mahjour, Assistant Director-General for emergency preparedness and international health regulations and Dr Naoko Yamamoto, Assistant Director-General for UHC and healthier populations.

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