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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: Equity and unity are key to ending COVID-19

The world needs political will and global unity to put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, stressed former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf during a live discussion hosted by the Washington Post.

Madam Sirleaf was joined in the discussion by former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark—both Co-Chairs of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR). She shared the concern that time was running out for a comprehensive global approach to dealing with the pandemic and its socio-economic implications, urging world leaders to take appropriate measures to deliver vaccination at scale:

“We need to make sure that intellectual property rights are waived or licenses granted so there can be manufacturing—particularly in the South where most of the people were deemed not vaccinated—so that we can get vaccinated as quickly as possible, to be able to achieve the 70% target date that’s been set the middle of 2022.”

Madam Sirleaf and Ms. Clark agreed that the past two years have highlighted pervasive inequalities among different countries, which are having a negative impact on the global efforts to prepare for and prevent future pandemics. Going forward, the world needs to adopt a holistic approach to addressing global pandemics, not limiting its response to the health sector, but also taking other sectors, such as education, into account. 

Highlighting the role that women leaders have played in successfully addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, Madam Sirleaf linked that success to their ability to “place emphasis on where it’s needed, emphasis on people, community health workers.”

Madam Sirleaf also said that Africa overcame overwhelming odds in dealing with COVID-19, despite the inequity in vaccine access experienced across the continent.

“ how we can implement some of the methods used in Africa and apply them to the systems that will be prepared in order to prevent another pandemic.”

She concluded by urging global leaders to study the recommendations put forward in the Independent Panel report, and to “implement them as quickly as possible” so that the world is “prepared to avoid another pandemic.”

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