Africa: WHO Director-General’s Remarks At Amref Global Health Leadership Award

Dr Gitahi,

Dr Nkengasong,

Dr Moeti,

Ms Merab,

Distinguished guests, my dear brothers and sisters,

I would like to thank the AHAIC 2021 Coordinating Committee and Amref Health Africa for this great honour.

I accept it with a mixture of pride and humility, not only on my own behalf, but on behalf of all my colleagues at WHO, who work every day, sometimes in difficult and dangerous situations, to protect and promote the health of the world’s people.

Tomorrow marks one year since I said the spread of COVID-19 could be described as a pandemic.

But ever since the first cases were reported from Wuhan on New Year’s Eve 2019, WHO worked day and night to warn the world and to give countries the strategies, guidance and tools they needed to prepare for, prevent, detect and respond to the spread of this new virus.

And on the 30th of January last year, I declared a public health emergency of international concern over the spread of the novel coronavirus – the highest level of alarm under international law.

At the time, outside China there were less than 100 cases of COVID-19, and no deaths.

One of the things we still need to understand is why some countries acted on that warning, while others were slower to react.

Our motto in the past year has been science, solutions and solidarity.