WHO appoints Dr. Ayoade Alakija as Covid-19 special envoy

SWITZERLAND – The World Health Organization has appointed a Nigerian, Dr. Ayoade Alakija, as the global health agency’s Special Envoy for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A).

Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, announced the appointment in a statement. “Dr Alakija brings a tremendous track record in advocating for equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments, especially for Africa,” Dr. Ghebreyesus said.

Alakija will work alongside former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, WHO’s current Special Envoy for ACT-A.

Dr. Alakija will also provide assistance to the leaders of the ACT-three Accelerator’s production pillars (vaccines, tests, and treatments) and the cross-connector; consult extensively on the operation of ACT accelerators; advise the Director General, ACT Accelerator Directors, and stakeholders on new issues; and represent an ACT accelerator in key national and international fora.

Dr. Alakija joins ACT-Accelerator at a critical juncture in the global response to COVID-19, when the emergence of new variants of concern and missed global coverage targets have left a large proportion of the world’s population unvaccinated, untested, and untreated.

Equal access to vaccines, testing, treatments, and personal protective equipment (PPE) remains critical to ending the pandemic’s acute phase.

The ACT-Accelerator Partnership, a coalition of leading public health organizations, is the only global initiative offering an integrated, comprehensive solution to accelerating the end of the pandemic through the rapid development and equitable distribution of vaccines, tests, and treatments.

Dr. Alakija earned her doctorate in public health and epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

She is a global health activist and leader who has used diplomacy to bring the global north and south together in a coordinated response to the pandemic.

Dr. Alakija has been a leading voice in calling for a more deliberate global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She is the co-Chair of the African Union’s African Vaccine Delivery Alliance and the founder of Nigeria’s Emergency Coordination Centre, building on her work with over 100 countries worldwide.

She has served as Nigeria’s Chief Humanitarian Coordinator, where she led the Oslo Humanitarian Conference for Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, collaborating with governments and multilateral institutions to mobilize responses to some of the world’s most under-reported humanitarian crises.

She has also worked closely with the WHO and UNICEF while based in Fiji to design, coordinate, and implement National Health and Behavioral Surveys throughout the Pacific region.

In accepting her new role, Dr. Alakija was quoted as saying, “this moment in time calls for a powerful, inclusive and accountable shift in the way we have thus far responded to COVID-19 and the devastation it has caused and continues to inflict on us.”

WHO had also appointed the then Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, as WHO’s Assistant Director General of Health Emergency Intelligence effective November 1, 2021.

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