Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, has been appointed to lead the new WHO hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence, based in Berlin.
The hub was inaugurated on Wednesday by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and World Health Organization Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The new hub’s mission is to provide the world with better data, analytics and decisions to detect and respond to health emergencies.
“I look forward to delivering on this mission,” Dr. Ihekweazu said at a news conference in Berlin.
The WHO hub is currently operating from a center provided by the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. It will soon move to a permanent campus at the heart of Berlin in Kreuzberg that will provide a collaborative work environment for the Hub’s staff, who will represent a wide range of disciplines, the WHO said.
“The world needs to be able to detect new events with pandemic potential and to monitor disease control measures on a real-time basis to create effective pandemic and epidemic risk management,” said Dr Tedros. “This Hub will be key to that effort, leveraging innovations in data science for public health surveillance and response, and creating systems whereby we can share and expand expertise in this area globally.”
The hub, which is receiving an initial investment of $100 million from the Federal Republic of Germany, will harness broad and diverse partnerships across many professional disciplines, and the latest technology, to link the data, tools and communities of practice so that actionable data and intelligence are shared for the common good.
The WHO hub is part of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program and will be a new collaboration of countries and partners worldwide, driving innovations to increase availability of key data; develop state of the art analytic tools and predictive models for risk analysis; and link communities of practice around the world. Critically, the WHO Hub will support the work of public health experts and policy-makers in all countries with the tools needed to forecast, detect and assess epidemic and pandemic risks so they can take rapid decisions to prevent and respond to future public health emergencies.
“Despite decades of investment, COVID-19 has revealed the great gaps that exist in the world’s ability to forecast, detect, assess and respond to outbreaks that threaten people worldwide,” said Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergency Program. “The WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence is designed to develop the data access, analytic tools and communities of practice to fill these very gaps, promote collaboration and sharing, and protect the world from such crises in the future.”
The Hub will work to:
- Enhance methods for access to multiple data sources
- vital to generating signals and insights on disease emergence, evolution and impact;
- Develop state of the art tools to process, analyze and model data for detection, assessment and response;
- Provide WHO, our Member States, and partners with these tools to underpin better, faster decisions on how to address outbreak signals and events; and
- Connect and catalyze institutions and networks developing disease outbreak solutions for the present and future.
“All the work that goes into pandemic and epidemic preparedness must occur before an outbreak starts,” said Dr Tedros. “Data linkage and analysis, and the ability to better detect and assess risks of disease events in their earliest stages before they amplify and cause death and societal disruption, is what the WHO Hub will focus on. WHO is grateful that partners like Germany and Chancellor Merkel are joining the world on this necessary path.”