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Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speaking at the Ibrahim Governance Weekend 2021

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf joined other African and global leaders in an urgent call to strengthen the continent’s health capacities during the Ibrahim Governance Weekend virtual forum last week. 

Countries were not prepared to respond to the pandemic threat, despite years of warning,” Madam Sirleaf said during a panel discussion that kicked off the first day of the forum. Now, with countries in Africa and around the world still facing devastation caused by COVID-19, Madam Sirleaf shared what she said were the most urgent actions required to bring an end to the ongoing pandemic: 

“First, stop transmission of the current virus. This requires immediate action such as vaccine redistribution provided in an equitable manner. Second, transform the international system of pandemic preparedness and response.”

Madam Sirleaf, who serves as the Co-Chair of the Independent Panel for Preparedness and Response (Independent Panel), also shared key recommendations identified by the Independent Panel after eight months spent analyzing the World Health Organization’s (WHO) pandemic response. These recommendations include strengthening the independence, authority, and financing of the WHO, strengthening national pandemic preparedness and response capacities on a multi-disciplinary and whole of government basis, and establishing a high-level Global Health Threats Council led by heads of state and government.

Acknowledging that much work needed to be done to ensure that another global pandemic could be prevented, Madam Sirleaf commended African leaders who had acted quickly at the onset of COVID-19 to bring the public and private sectors together, effectively bolstering their countries’ pandemic response efforts. She concluded: “What we need to do is expand on what has already been done, identify where other capabilities are, and move in that direction.”

Amujae Coach and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Dr. Vera Songwe and EJS Center Board Member and Director-General of the World Trade Organization Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala were also among the speakers who contributed during the forum. 

You can watch a recording of the forum here.

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