The World Health Organisation has appointed a Nigerian, Dr. Ayoade Alakija, as the global health agency’s Special Envoy for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.
WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, announced the appointment in a statement on Thursday.
Alakija joins former Prime Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt, WHO’s current Special Envoy for ACT-A, in this role.
In her capacity as Special Envoy, Alakija will help lead the collective advocacy for the ACT-Accelerator, mobilizing support and resources so it can deliver against its new Strategic Plan and Budget that was launched on 28 October 2021, and ensuring that the response is characterised by accountability, inclusion, and solidarity,” the statement said.
Ghebreyesus also said she will support the leaders of the ACT-Accelerator’s three product pillars including vaccines, tests, treatments and cross-cutting ‘connector’; consult widely on the work of the ACT-Accelerator; advise the Director-General, ACT-Accelerator principals and stakeholders on emerging issues; and represent the ACT-Accelerator in key national and international fora.
“Dr Alakija brings a tremendous track record in advocating for equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments, especially for Africa,” said the WHO DG. “She joins us at a critical juncture in the fight against COVID-19, with the Omicron variant threatening to further constrain equitable access to vaccines, just as the pace of supply was improving. We are very much looking forward to working with her to advocate for the full financing of the ACT Accelerator, and to meeting the global targets for COVID-19 vaccination, testing and treatment.”
Alakija, a medical doctor with a Masters degree from The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in Public Health and Epidemiology, was formerly a Chief Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria. While based in Fiji, she worked closely with the WHO and UNICEF to design, coordinate, and implement National Health and Behavioural Surveys across the Pacific region.
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.