The newly appointed director of World Health Organisation (WHO) for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti has said her priority is to fight the Ebola disease outbreak in West Africa.
“I will give first priority to the Ebola disease outbreak in West Africa as I take over office. I will work with WHO colleagues and partners to help the affected countries halt the spread of the disease and reach zero cases, while starting to withstand similar shocks in future,” she said. The Botswana medic is the first woman to be appointed to the prestigious position and will start work next month.
She aims to build a responsive, effective and result-driven regional secretariat to advance efforts to realise universal health coverage, accelerate progress toward global development goals, while tackling emerging threats. Moeti says strong partnerships will underpin every aspect of the Regional Office’s work during her tenure.
She plans to help countries in reducing deaths of mothers and children. She will help in tackling HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria and neglected tropical diseases, while working hard to promote healthy life-styles and prevent non-communicable diseases.
Moeti has outlined a bold programme of reform to make WHO’s African Regional Office a more agile and responsive agency. She wants to expand access to lifesaving health services and preventive care across the region and to ensure countries are better-equipped to handle future public health threats.
Over the past 35 years, Moeti has held positions of responsibility at national, regional and global levels at WHO, UNICEF, UNAIDS and Botswana’s Ministry of Health.
The public health veteran joined WHO’s Africa Regional Office in 1999. She has served as deputy regional director, assistant regional director, and director of non-communicable diseases, WHO representative in Malawi, and coordinator of the Inter-Country Support Team for the South and East African countries.
Prior to joining WHO, she worked with UNAIDS as a Team Leader of the Africa and Middle East Desk in Geneva (1997-1999); with UNICEF as a Regional Health Advisor for East and Southern Africa; and with Botswana’s Ministry of Health as a Clinician and Public Health Specialist.
Notably, at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, she led the WHO Regional Office for Africa’s efforts on treatment scale-up in the context of the ‘3 by 5’ initiative and established a regional HIV laboratory network.
Her work resulted in a significant increase in the use of antiretroviral therapy by people living with HIV. She successfully spearheaded the development of WHO Regional Strategies for public health priority areas, including communicable and non-communicable diseases, immunisation, maternal and child health, and the health systems strengthening.
Moeti got her first degree in Community Health for Developing Countries from the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, University of London in 1978 and an MSc from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1986. She was born in Springs, South Africa, to two community physicians, who inspired her to pursue a career in public health.