Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

WHO Regional Director Dismisses "Bleak Picture" of His Work in Africa

Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

WHO Regional Director Dismisses "Bleak Picture" of His Work in Africa

Article excerpt

The director of WHO'S Regional Office for Africa, Ebrahim Samba, dismissed a scathing critique published in the Lancet on 7 August of his work.

Dr Samba, who has been regional director for 10 years, argued that despite widespread poverty and instability in the region his office had achieved unprecedented success.

In a response published on 11 August, Dr Samba rejected the Lancet's central charge that appointments of WHO country representatives and senior staff were "often paybacks for political or other favours", or that his successor would be selected on a political basis.

He said that to suggest as much was a misunderstanding of WHO's role and that as an international organization it was inevitably close to the 192 governments it represents.

"The Lancet painted a bleak picture of the work of WHO in the African Region, giving the impression that WHO is not recording any successes there. In fact, despite the challenges and ongoing instability, the opposite is true," Dr Samba said.

He gave polio eradication, as well as fighting leprosy and guinea worm, and helping to rebuild health systems in post-conflict Liberia and Sierra Leone as examples of those successes.

In an editorial (2004;364;9433) entitled: WHO's African regional office must evolve or die, the Lancet called for more transparency from WHO and public debate over the nomination of a successor to Dr Samba, who retires in January.

The Lancet said WHO's African office had an "ineffective and self-serving central management" leaving staff "demoralized and unsupported", and that the root cause was mistakenly acting like a "political rather than technical agency".

The weekly journal said that despite having the world's highest disease burden and lowest level of economic development, and the constraints of "corruption, poor governance, political instability, and civil strife" in Africa, WHO's Regional Office for Africa could do better. …

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