Kenyans elated by Amoth’s election to chair WHO board
George Kebaso @Morarak
Acting Director of Health Patrick Amoth was yesterday elected as the chair of the World Health Organisation (WHO) board.
His election was announced during the 149th Session of the WHO Executive Board meeting by his predecessor, Harsh Vardhan on the sidelines of the ongoing World Health Assembly.
“Dr Amoth, who took over the position during the Board meeting in Geneva, succeeds Dr Harsh from India.
During his term, there will be the key election of the Director General of the WHO, a function which he will preside over,” a press statement from the union explained.
The news of his election elicited debate on various social media platforms with a cross section of Kenyans on Twitter (KoT) questioning why the man who has become the face of Kenya’s fight against Covid-19 was still serving as Director of Health in acting capacity for close to two years now.
“Acting in Kenya but being appointed elsewhere. Why can’t he be confirmed?” Kevin Khaemba asked in a tweet.
Another Twitter commentator, Joe Okiri weighed in; “It is high time we have Amoth confirmed permanently to the role of Director General of Health. He has acted for far too long.”
Told of the reactions from Kenyans on twitter, Amoth downplayed the matter, saying “only God knows.”
He, however, expressed gratitude to WHO member States for considering Kenya’s ability for the top seat.
“On behalf of the government of the Republic of Kenya, I wish to convey our deep appreciation and gratitude to the entire WHO membership for the faith and trust they have demonstrated in electing Kenya to serve as Chairperson of the Executive Board.
I also take this opportunity to especially thank Member States of the African Region for nominating Kenya to serve in this capacity,” he said.
He also said he hopes to help eradicate the Covid-19 pandemic during his term on duty at the WHO office.
“During my term, I hope that we can purpose as Member States to spare no effort in striving to end to the ongoing pandemic and secure a healthier and sustainable future.
We must endeavour to utilise all the available tools at our disposal and remain steadfast in our fidelity to the basic founding principles of our great organisation towards the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health,” he added.
In May last year, Amoth was elected Vice-President of the WHO Executive Board, representing the African region for a two-year term; he expressed optimism, promising to endeavour to represent Kenya with dignity and honour.
“I am overwhelmed and deeply grateful for your support and kind words on my election as Vice-President of WHO Executive Board.
My sincere gratitude also to MoH Kenya, led by CS Mutahi Kagwe, for their confidence in me.
I will endeavour to represent Kenya with dignity and honour. Asante!” He said at the time.
The Executive Board comprises 34 members. The World Health Assembly, taking into account an equitable geographical distribution, elects the Members entitled to designate a person to serve on the Board.
Each of these Members appoints to the Board a person technically qualified in the field of health, who may be accompanied by alternates and advisers.
Kenya was elected to the Executive Board in 2019, and was previously represented by Dr Masasabi Wekesa, until January 2020, when Amoth was appointed as the substantive Member.
Kenya’s Ambassador in Geneva, Dr Cleopa Mailu, the former Health Cabinet Secretary, is the alternate member.
These members are elected for three years and may be re-elected. The Executive Board meets at least twice a year.
However, its functions are coordinated by a Secretariat based at the WHO headquarters in, Geneva.
Amoth is a medical doctor with a Master of Medicine degree in Obstetrics/Gynaecology from University of Nairobi.
His has a colourful resume, having worked in various counties rising to the position of Health Director General in the last quarter of 2019.
A consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Amoth previously headed the Directorate of Public Health.
During this period, he spearheaded the strategy development for effective delivery of health services in all the 47 counties.
He formerly headed the Department of Health Sector Coordination and Intergovernmental Affairs, an assignment that was preceded by his successful stint as a Chief Medical Specialist and Senior Deputy Director of Medical Services at Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital.
He is a graduate of the University of Nairobi’s Medical School and has a Masters in Obstetrics and Gynaecology from the same university.