By John Ikani
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has appointed Ayoade Alakija, a Nigerian doctor, as its Special Envoy for the access to COVID-19 tools accelerator (ACT-Accelerator).
The ACT-accelerator partnership is a global initiative offering an integrated, end-to-end solution to end of the pandemic through the accelerated development and equitable distribution of vaccines, tests and treatments.
Announcing Alakija’s appointment in a statement on Thursday, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, said she will join Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister of Sweden, in the same role.
According to the statement, Alakija will help lead the collective advocacy for the ACT-accelerator, mobilise support and resources so the organisation can deliver on its strategic plan that was launched on 28 October 2021.
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.”
On her part, Alakija said: “I come to this role to serve and to be part of a team that will ensure that the fruits of our collective work bring meaningful access and dignity in health in this pandemic that is felt in every village, town and city.”
Alakija, a medical doctor with a Master’s 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 its Assistant Director General of Health Emergency Intelligence effective November 1, 2021.