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WHO appoints Okonjo-Iweala COVID-19 special envoy

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WORLD Health Organisation (WHO) has named Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance and former Managing Director (Operations) of World Bank, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as a special envoy for its newly inaugurated Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.

  Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, disclosed this via a video conference held to launch the ACT Accelerator in Geneva.

  According to Ghebreyesus, a global challenge like the coronavirus pandemic deserves the best hands that can be mustered from all angle.

  “The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global crisis that has been met with an unprecedented global response. Research and development have played a central role. Since January, WHO has been working with thousands of researchers all over the world to accelerate and track vaccine development – from developing animal models to clinical trial designs, and everything in between.

We’ve also developed diagnostics that are being used all over the world. And we’re coordinating a global trial on the safety and efficacy of four therapeutics against COVID-19. The world needs these tools, and it needs them fast.

Past experience has taught us that even when tools are available, they have not been equally available to all.  We cannot allow that to happen. 

Today, WHO is proud to be uniting with many partners to launch the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, or the ACT Accelerator. This is a landmark collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics for COVID-19,” he explained.

  Under the appointment, Okonjo-Iweala, who is Board Chairperson of GAVI Alliance, will serve together with British Business Executive, Andrew Witty, in the same capacity in mobilising international commitment to the initiative.

  It will be recalled that the initiative is an international collaboration aimed at accelerating the development, production, and equitable distribution of COVID-19 drugs, tests kits, and vaccines around the world.

  President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa had on March 7 appointed Okonjo-Iweala a member of the country’s Economic Advisory Council. But a month later on April 10, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva, named Okonjo-Iweala a member of the fund’s External Advisory Group which comprised prominent individuals from around the world, who will serve as Georgieva’s special advisers.

  Okonjo-Iweala is also one of the four Special Envoys the African Union (AU) on April 12, an appointment that saddles her with mobilising international support for its efforts towards addressing the coronavirus pandemic. 

AU special envoys are charged with soliciting the support of the G-20, European Union and other international financial institutions for the organisation’s response.

  Her recent appointment by WHO marks her fourth international appointment in two months.

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