Dr. Palitha Abeykoon among special envoys
By Dilanthi Jayamanne
Senior Adviser to the Health Ministry, Dr. Palitha Abeykoon, is among the six Special Envoys on COVID-19 appointed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to provide strategic advice and high-level political advocacy and engagement in different parts of the world.
He was a member of the National Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases, Member of National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) and former Chairman of the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA). The Special Envoys have been appointed by the WHO Director General (DG-WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who are expected to work in close collaboration with WHO Regional Directors and country offices to coordinate the global response to COVID-19.
The Envoys are expected to intensify the messages of the Director General, disseminate WHO guidance on COVID-19 readiness and response, partake in high-level advocacy and political engagement, provide strategic advice on preparedness, readiness and response to COVID-19 outbreaks, engage with regional bodies and Governments and report regularly to the DG-WHO.
The DG-WHO said that Dr. Abeykoon’s experience in building health systems and workforces to protect people against infectious diseases across South East Asia will be vital against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Palitha Abeykoon is a senior physician and public health professional from Sri Lanka, with post graduate education and training from the universities of Geneva and Southern California, and the Harvard School of Public Health, where he was a Taro Takemi Fellow.
He was also a former president of the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA). Dr. Abeykoon serves as a member of the WHO Global Learning Academy and the Regional Director’s Research Advisory Committee.
The team of Special Envoys consists of Professor Dr. Maha El Rabbat, former Minister of Health and Population of Egypt, Dr. David Nabarro, former Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change, Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Mirta Roses, former Director of the WHO Region of the Americas, Professor Samba Sow, Director-General of the Centre for Vaccine Development in Mali, and former Regional Director of the WHO Region of the Western Pacific Dr. Young-soo Shin.