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WHO director general faces leadership challenge

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7086.993k (Published 05 April 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:993

After years of decline and criticism, the World Health Organisation now faces calls for stronger leadership. Fiona Godlee looks at the possible contenders for this influential post

The first challenger for the post of director general of the World Health Organisation has declared his candidacy. Dr Ebrahim Samba, currently the WHO's regional director for Africa, has announced that he will stand for election when the incumbent, Dr Hiroshi Nakajima, ends his second five year term in January 1998. The announcement, unprecedented at such an early stage in the proceedings, comes amid continuing calls for stronger leadership and for open and competitive recruitment at all levels of the organisation.

Financially, the WHO's position is less bleak than a year ago. The United States has paid its arrears for 1995, allowing the organisation to repay almost all of the $178m (£111m) it borrowed last year, amid criticism of financial mismanagement, from its own internal reserves. The stronger dollar has also helped. The budget is calculated in US dollars while salaries and expenses are paid in local currency. Every cent increase in the dollar's worth adds about $2.5m to the budget.

Dr Nakajimi would like to lead the WHO into the next century

AP KEYSTONE

Even so, the organisation forecasts a 10% shortfall for 1998-9. …

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