African scientist to receive WHO’s Global Health Leaders Award


WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will present two-lifetime achievement awards to recognize outstanding contributions to advancing global health during the high-level opening session of the Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly. One of the recipients of the prestigious award according to the announcement made via their website is an African scientist, Jean-Jacques Muyembe-Tamfum .

According to the organisation, the Director-General’s Global Leaders Awards, which were established in 2019, will go to Jean-Jacques Muyembe-Tamfum and Peter Piot. Both recipients are distinguished scientists and public health leaders who were closely involved in the discovery of the Ebola virus disease before advancing to leadership positions in global health. The award honours their lifetime achievements in public health.

WHO reports that Professor Muyembe-Tamfum from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is being recognized for his innovation, leadership and ground-breaking contributions to the management and treatment of diseases such as Ebola virus disease. He has played a critical role in improving health outcomes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the African region, and the global community. Professor Muyembe-Tamfum is the Director General of the DRC’s National Institute of Biomedical Research in Kinshasa, Full Professor of Microbiology at the University of Kinshasa Medical School and the inaugural president of the Congolese Academy of Science.



The 81-year-old Congolese microbiologist was part of the team that discovered the Zaïre ebolavirus during the first recorded outbreak in 1976, in Equateur Province, Central DRC. He later helped design one of the first effective treatments against the virus and the deployment of experimental Ebola virus disease vaccines. He has worked tirelessly to build the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s scientific capacity, establishing multiple research facilities in the country, and has played key roles with WHO in fighting infectious diseases.

Professor Piot from Belgium is being recognized for his extraordinary leadership in the response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and other significant global health challenges. He has played a vital role in launching major global health initiatives such as UNAIDS, the Global Fund, and others that have improved health outcomes around the world. Under his leadership, UNAIDS became the chief advocate for worldwide action against AIDS, also spearheading UN reform by bringing together 10 different UN organizations.

Professor Piot also played a part in the earlier discovery of the Ebola virus, and the containment of the first known outbreak, participating in field epidemiological investigations. He has chaired a number of high-level initiatives, served in numerous high-level advisory roles, including on COVID-19, and has received multiple awards. Professor Piot is the Special Advisor to the EC President, a Professor of Global Health and a former Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

“These outstanding individuals embody lifelong dedication, relentless advocacy, a commitment to equity, and selfless service of humanity and people’s health,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “In a time of multiple emergencies, health crises, and conflict, we recognize that leadership in public health and science are more important than ever to advance global health. Our awardees today personify that passion.”



“Their combined stories and successes show how much the world has progressed in terms of collaboration at the global, regional and country levels to strengthen health emergency preparedness, response and resilience. These outstanding scientists will continue to inspire us every day,” he added

The ceremony for the awards forms part of the high-level opening session of the 76th World Health Assembly being held on Sunday 21 May 2023 in Geneva.




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