Africa: 'No Substitute' - Ex-President Sirleaf's Appointment to WHO's Global COVID-19 Panel Hailed

Former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (file photo).

Monrovia — Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah, the former head of the National Public Health Institute(NPHIL) has hailed the appointment of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to an Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPR) to evaluate the world's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Thursday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Panel will be co-chaired by former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark and former President Sirleaf.

Dr. Tedros said the panel will operate independently and will choose other Panel members as well as members of an independent secretariat to provide support.

"Prime Minister Clark and President Sirleaf were selected through a process of broad consultation with Member States and world experts. I cannot imagine two more strong-minded, independent leaders to help guide us through this critical learning process." said Dr. Tedros in his speech to member states.

Mr. Nyenswah, presently a Senior Research Associate, Department of International Health at the John Hopkins School of Public Health, based in Baltimore, United States of America, said: "There is no substitute for political leadership in disasters and crisis management in general. The 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak was the worst in the 21th century. It was challenging to global public health and posed an existential threat to the populations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf effective and astute leadership role during the crisis as head of the Presidential Advisory Council on Ebola, qualified her as an eminent person to evaluate the independence of the global COVID-19 response."

At the historic 73rd World Health Assembly in May, Member States adopted a landmark resolution that called on WHO to initiate an independent and comprehensive evaluation of the lessons learned from the international health response to COVID-19.

"This is a time for self-reflection, to look at the world we live in and to find ways to strengthen our collaboration as we work together to save lives and bring this pandemic under control," said Dr Tedros.

"The magnitude of this pandemic, which has touched virtually everyone in the world, clearly deserves a commensurate evaluation."

Dr Tedros proposed that a Special Session of the Executive Board be called in September to discuss the Panel's progress. In November the Panel will present an interim report at the resumption of the World Health Assembly.

In January 2021, the Executive Board will hold its regular session, where the Panel's work will be further discussed; and in May of next year, at the World Health Assembly, the panel will present its substantive report.

The Director-General noted that the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme will also continue its existing work.

"Even as we fight this pandemic, we must be readying ourselves for future global outbreaks and the many other challenges of our time such as antimicrobial resistance, inequality and the climate crisis," said Dr Tedros. "COVID-19 has taken so much from us. But it is also giving us an opportunity to break with the past and build back better."

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