Director General of Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, has been appointed Assistant Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO). He will be in charge of health emergency intelligence at the global health body.
In an official letter addressed to Ihekweazu on Wednesday, the WHO’s Director General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, confirmed his appointment.
Ihekweazu is expected to assume the new office on November 1, 2021. He will be in charge of WHO’s pandemic and epidemic response hub in Berlin, Germany.
“I am pleased to welcome Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu as an Assistant Director-General for Health Emergency Intelligence from November 1, 2021. He will lead the work on strengthening pandemic and epidemic intelligence globally, including heading the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in Berlin,” the letter reads in part.
Ihekweazu, an infectious disease epidemiologist with over 20 years of experience, has held leadership positions in several national public health institutes, including the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases, the United Kingdom’s Health Protection Agency, and Germany’s Robert Koch Institute.
Ihekweazu, born in Germany, is a graduate of the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria and has a Masters in Public Health from the Heinrich-Heine University, Dusseldorf, Germany. In 2003, he was awarded a Fellowship for the European Programme for Intervention Epidemiology Training and subsequently completed his Public Health specialisation in the United Kingdom.
Ihekweazu was appointed acting head of the NCDC, the agency responsible for the control and prevention of communicable diseases in the country by President Muhammadu Buhari in August 2016. He became the first substantive head of the disease agency in November 2018 following the signing of the NCDC act into law.
So far Ihekweazu has led the response to large outbreaks of infectious diseases such as yellow fever, Lassa fever and lately, COVID-19.
He has been serving on the WHO’s IHR Emergency Committee for COVID-19, chaired by Didier Houssin. He is also member of the Africa Task Force for Coronavirus Steering Committee, where he chairs the Infection Prevention Control Sub-Committee.
Back home in Nigeria, he is a key member of Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.