World Health Organization slams Okonjo-Iweala haters
The World Health Organisation, WHO, and Global Fund have endorsed the appointment of former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the Chair-elect of the board of GAVI, the vaccine alliance ahead of her assumption of the position in January 2016.
In a statement by the WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan it was stated that Okonjo-Iweala would bring more than 33 years of development and financial expertise to the Gavi Board at a critical period for immunization in developing countries.
Okonjo-Iweala was on Monday offered the advisory role to help countries structure their finances and deal with debt issues, with a second offer to head the board of GAVI.
The appointments come after Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, had repeatedly accused Okonjo-Iweala of embezzling public funds during her time as Finance Minister, claims which she debunked severally.
After her appointment habitual Okonjo Iweala critics, Premium Times and Sahara Reporters alleged that her appointment came months after she spearheaded a controversial decision to pay US$2.2 million to the Geneva-based organization, being a refund for funds allegedly mismanaged by Nigerian health officials.
Hours after her appointment was announced, Sahara Reporters tweeted that Okonjo-Iweala got the position from an organisation with which Nigeria did business under her watch and “paid GAVI $2.2m shortly before she left.”
In a swift response, Paul Nwabuikwu, Okonjo-Iweala’s media aide described the tweet as “lies.”
Disregarding the critics, WHO stated in a press release;
“Earlier this year, WHO warned that vaccines are not being delivered equitably or reliably and that only 1 out of the 6 key vaccination targets for 2015 is currently on track – the introduction of under-utilized vaccines, a target to which Gavi has contributed significantly.
“In taking up the position of Board Chair, Dr Okonjo-Iweala will succeed Dagfinn Høybråten, a former Norwegian Minister of Health and current Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers.
“She will also work closely with Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General for Family, Women’s and Children’s Health, who is Vice Chair of Gavi.
“Since 2000, Gavi has supported the immunization of more than half a billion additional children, leading to seven million future deaths being averted.
“WHO is one of the founding members of Gavi, a public-private partnership formed in 2000, to address global inequities in access to and coverage of available lifesaving vaccines?
“Over the next 5 years, WHO will continue to lead collective efforts to achieve and sustain universal vaccination coverage as outlined in the Decade of Vaccines Global Vaccine Action Plan.”
Corroborating what WHO had said, Global Fund added; “as a key partner, the Global Fund looks forward to a productive working relationship with Dr. Okonjo-Iweala.
“Dr. Okonjo-Iweala brings deep experience and insight in global health issues to her new role at Gavi. The Global Fund anticipates close collaboration, particularly in our joint work around systems for health, women’s and girls’ health.”
This is not the first time that Sahara Reporters and Premium Times are desperately trying to indict Okonjo-Iweala of fraudulent practices in the discharge of her duties, she has rebuffed them several times in the past.