Dr Ayoade Alakija was appointed as World Health Organisation’s (WHO) special envoy for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator). She will be responsible to steer the efforts of this global coalition of organisations working towards ending the covid-19 pandemic, ensuring the success of the recently developed Strategic Plan and Budget of the collective.
This role will see Dr Alakija provide support and resources to all member organisations with regards to development of diagnostics, treatments and vaccines against the coronavirus. She will be expected to bring in accountability, inclusion, and solidarity to these efforts. She will also be providing support and counsel to WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Her appointment comes in the wake of the emergence of the new Omicron variant of the virus, necessitating a further thrust on this global effort, the only one of its kind. The collective has been able to facilitate equitable distribution of testing facilities, vaccines and medicines in several lower and middle income countries.
An alumnus of The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in Public Health and Epidemiology, Dr Alakija has emerged as a global health leader who has been deployed to bring together the global north and south together in coordinated responses to the pandemic. Before this, she held the position of Chief Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria. In this role, she has had the experience of working with government and private organisations from various nations with the aim of resolving humanitarian crises, specifically in the Lake Chad region. She has been long associated with WHO and UNICEF.
Dr Ghebreyesus believes Dr Alakija brings a tremendous track record in advocating for equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments, especially for Africa. “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,” he further said.
Dr Alakija recognises the urgent need for a powerful, inclusive and accountable shift in the world’s COVID-19 response. “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,” she said. She adds that she is taking over the role with the intention to serve and be part of a team that will ensure that the fruits of our collective work bring meaningful access and dignity in health in the pandemic that is felt in every village, town and city.