By Cecilia Ologunagba/New York
The World Health Organization (WHO) has explained the nature of the job of Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), as head of its newly-inaugurated Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence based in Berlin, Germany.
Outgoing German Federal Chancellor, Dr Angela Merkel, and the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, inaugurated the hub on Wednesday to better prepare and protect the world from global disease threats.
WHO also gave Merkel the global leadership award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to global health.
The Berlin hub aims at helping countries better assess and respond to global disease threats in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
It will bring together diverse partnerships from several disciplines and the latest technology, so that data and intelligence are shared for the common good.
“Critically, it will support experts and policy-makers worldwide to be able to forecast, detect and assess epidemic and pandemic risks so that they can respond rapidly to future public health emergencies.
“The world needs to be able to detect new events with pandemic potential and to monitor disease control measures on a real-time basis to create effective pandemic and epidemic risk management,’’ Ghebreyesus said in a press release.
“All the work that goes into pandemic and epidemic preparedness must occur before an outbreak starts,” said Dr Tedros.
“Data linkage and analysis, and the ability to better detect and assess risks of disease events in their earliest stages before they amplify and cause death and societal disruption, is what the WHO Hub will focus on.
According to him, the Hub will be key to that effort, leveraging innovations in data science for public health surveillance and response, and creating systems whereby the world can share and expand expertise in this area globally.
According to the statement, Germany has provided an initial US$ 100 million investment for the Hub.
Speaking at the launch, Merkel highlighted her country’s contribution to medical science, including developing tests and vaccines against the new coronavirus.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated how much we can actually achieve if we combine our strengths,” she said through an interpreter.
“Experts from all over the world at enormous speed have been able to enhance and share their expertise and knowledge in order to decode the coronavirus.”
The WHO Hub is currently operating from a centre provided by the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.
It will soon move to a permanent campus at the heart of Berlin in Kreuzberg that will provide a collaborative work environment for the Hub’s staff, who will represent a wide range of disciplines.
On Wednesday, WHO DG, Tedros formally welcomed Ihekweazu to the new job via a post on Twitter.
He wrote: Glad to appoint @Chikwe_I as Head of the new
@WHO Hub for pandemic & epidemic intelligence. He brings a wealth of experience, & will serve a dual role as the head of the Hub in Germany, & as Assistant Director-General for Health Emergency Intelligence in🇨🇭. Welcome to WHO, my brother!”