Professor Ibrahim Abubakar, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Population Health Sciences, has been appointed to an expert panel co-convened by the World Health Organisation and World Bank Group to monitor the world’s preparedness for health emergencies.
The panel, known as the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB), was set up in 2018 following the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa. Its mandate is to monitor and report on the state of global preparedness and to advocate for key actions to address gaps in preparedness.
In announcing the new members, the GPMB noted that the Covid-19 pandemic had revealed gaps in how the world understood and monitored preparedness.
Professor Abubakar is a Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at UCL and, prior to his appointment as Dean, was director of the UCL Institute for Global Health. He said: "I am delighted and honoured to join this multi-disciplinary independent panel designed to ensure accountability in global preparedness against pandemics and health threats. I look forward to working with colleagues to provide the critical input on health security."
Speaking about the appointments, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "Despite the GPMB’s repeated warnings about the ’cycle of panic and neglect’ that has characterised the global response to health emergencies in recent history, the Covid-19 pandemic caught the world off-guard.
"As the building blocks of a new global architecture for health security begin to be put in place, the GPMB will continue to play a vital role in monitoring their sturdiness and reliability, and in continuing to alert the world to gaps and weaknesses. I welcome the new board and look forward to working with it closely to make the world a safer place."
Appointees to the 18-member board include former policymakers, diplomats, and experts in wide-ranging fields from across the world. Its new co-chairs are Joy Phumaphi, former Minister of Health of Botswana, who is credited with establishing the first public sector universal antiretroviral program in the developing world, and Sir Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome.
Each year, the GPMB generates a report that assesses the current state of global preparedness for health emergencies and lays out a roadmap for improving preparedness.
In its first report in September 2019, "A World At Risk", the GPMB predicted the immediate threat of a major respiratory pandemic. Its latest report, "From Worlds Apart to a World Prepared", argued that the failures of the Covid-19 pandemic were rooted in inequality and inaction and exacerbated by geopolitical division. It called for a renewed social contract with equity at its core and laid out six solutions for a safer world.
Mamta Murthi, Vice President for Human Development, said: "An independent and transparent assessment of the status of preparedness has never been more vital. As Covid-19 has demonstrated, a pathogen spreading across the globe has the potential to kill millions of people, disrupt economies, and threaten development gains.
"Actions and responses should be independently assessed so that they are efficient and take into account health, social, and economic factors. Ensuring and investing in preparedness before a crisis strikes saves lives and protects the most vulnerable who are often hit hardest."
In addition to his UCL roles, Professor Abubakar is chair of Lancet Migration, a global collaboration to advance migration health, Lancet Nigeria Commission and the Wellcome Trust Expert Review Group on Population Health. He also served as chair of the WHO Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for Tuberculosis until 2019.