Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has appointed Dr. Ayoade Alakija as WHO Special Envoy for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator). Dr 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, Dr Alakija will help lead the collective advocacy for the ACT-Accelerator, mobilising 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.
Dr Alakija will also support the leaders of the ACT-Accelerator’s three product pillars (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 is said to have joined the ACT-Accelerator at a critical moment in the global COVID-19 response, where the emergence of new variants of concern and missed global coverage targets leave large swathes of the world’s population unvaccinated, untested and untreated. According to the WHO, the need for equitable access to vaccines, testing, treatments and personal protective equipment (PPE) remains vitally important to bringing an end to the acute phase of the pandemic.
The ACT-Accelerator partnership, a coalition of leading public health organisations, is said to be the only global initiative offering an integrated, end-to-end solution to expedite the end of the pandemic through the accelerated development and equitable distribution of vaccines, tests and treatments.
Dr Alakija is a medical doctor with a Masters degree from The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in Public Health and Epidemiology. She is a global health leader and activist who has deployed diplomacy to bring together the global north and south together in coordinated responses to the pandemic.
In her previous role as Chief Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, she led the Oslo Humanitarian Conference for Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, working with governments and multilateral institutions to mobilise responses to some of the most under-recognized humanitarian crises in the world. 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.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, she has been a leading voice calling for the urgent reimagining of how the globe should respond more consciously to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr Alakija is also the co-Chair of the African Union’s African Vaccine Delivery Alliance and founder of the Emergency Coordination Centre in Nigeria, building on her work with over 100 nations around the globe.
“Dr Alakija brings a tremendous track record in advocating for equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments, especially for Africa,” said Dr Ghebreyesus. “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.”
Dr Alakija said: “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. This is a pivotal opportunity for that shift to happen. The collective voices, energy and resources of communities, researchers, scientists, private sector and political leadership must be galvanised and deployed with courage to ensure that we vaccinate the world, strengthen our public health systems, reimagine pandemic preparedness and ensure that we stop the current injustice and ongoing waves of death in its tracks.
“This is within reach, but only if a life in Mumbai matters as much as a life in Brussels, if a life in Sao Paulo matters as much as a life in Geneva, and if a life in Harare matters as much as a life in Washington DC. 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.”