The World Health Organisation (WHO) has appointed Nigeria’s Ayoade Alakija as Special Envoy for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator).
She joins former Prime Minister of Sweden, Carl Bildt, in this role.
In her new role, Ms Alakija will 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 October 28. She will also help ensure 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,” the WHO said in a statement.
According to WHO, Ms Alakija joins 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.
“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,” Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, said in the statement.
The global health agency noted that the need for equitable access to vaccines, testing, treatments and personal protective equipment (PPE) remains important to bringing an end to the acute phase of the pandemic.
“Dr Alakija brings a tremendous track record in advocating for equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments, especially for Africa,” Mr Ghebreyesus said.
Ms Alakija has been a leading voice in calling for the world to respond more consciously to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She is 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.
She has worked as Chief Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, leading 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-recognised 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.
Ms Alakija is a medical doctor with a Masters degree in Public Health and Epidemiology from The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
In accepting her new role, Ms 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.”
“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.”
The ACT-Accelerator partnership, a coalition of leading public health organisations, is the only global initiative offering an integrated, end-to-end solution to expedite the end of the COVID-19 pandemic through the accelerated development and equitable distribution of vaccines, tests and treatments.
The ACT-Accelerator’s impact so far includes delivering more than 680 million vaccine doses to 144 countries and territories through COVAX; reducing by half the cost of COVID-19 rapid tests, transferring technology to low and middle-income countries, and delivering more than 137 million tests through the diagnostics consortium; increasing essential oxygen, personal protective equipment (PPE) and treatment supplies, including through the advance purchase of nearly 3 million doses of dexamethasone and more than $4 billion worth of support from the Global Fund’s COVID-19 Response Mechanism (C19RM).
The ACT Accelerator partnership was formed at the onset of the pandemic in response to a call from G20 leaders, and was launched by the WHO, the European Commission, France, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in April 2020.
The ACT-Accelerator partner agencies are: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, CEPI, FIND, Gavi, the Global Fund, UNICEF, Unitaid, Wellcome, the WHO and the World Bank.