The World Health Organization’s new director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, began his five-year term Saturday.

The former Ethiopian health and foreign minister is the first African chosen to head the organization.   

Tedros, who goes by his first name, won the office by a clear majority, defeating British and Pakistani candidates in May in the first WHO election decided by member countries.

He is facing a slew of challenges as he takes the helm of the sprawling organization with a funding shortfall of approximately $2.2 billion that is

responsible for improving health care around the world.

After his election, he said the concept of health as a human right would be at the heart of whatever he does at WHO.

“Half of our population does not have access to health care.” He said that could and should be remedied through universal health care coverage, which would address the issue of health as a human right and act as a spur to development.

“All roads should lead to universal health coverage and it should be the center of gravity of our movement,” he said.

Tedros has said one of his first orders of business would be to strengthen WHO’s ability to respond swiftly and effectively to emergencies because “epidemics can strike at any time” and the WHO must be prepared.

Tedros is taking over the reins of the organization from Margaret Chan of China who led WHO for nearly ten years.

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