Top players in COVID fight leaving in WHO shake-up
World Health Organization head office

GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — Two of the World Health Organization's most senior figures in the fight against COVID-19 are quitting next week, according to a letter from the WHO chief seen by AFP on Tuesday.

Indian paediatrician and clinical scientist Soumya Swaminathan is leaving her post as the WHO's chief scientist, while Mariangela Simao of Brazil is departing as the UN health agency's assistant director general for access to medicines and health products.

The pair were among the top WHO officials leading global efforts to coordinate the response to the pandemic since COVID-19 was first detected in China in late 2019.

They have been part of the WHO's public-facing team in the search for vaccines, tests and treatments to combat the pandemic.

The departures were announced in a letter to colleagues written by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as part of a shake-up of his top team following his re-election for a second five-year term in May.

"I would like to express my abiding appreciation and respect to members of my senior leadership team whose appointments with WHO are coming to an end on November 30," Tedros said in the letter.

"These distinguished individuals have my deepest gratitude for their commitment and contribution to the organisation over the last five years."

Swaminathan and her team worked to keep up with and communicate the constantly-evolving science around COVID-19.

Simao often took the lead in explaining the search for vaccines and the WHO's approval process for COVID-19 jabs.

Also heading for the out door are former French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn, Tedros's multilateral affairs envoy; and former British Government minister Jane Ellison, who is leaving as executive director for external affairs and governance.

"The team has... helped steer WHO through a global pandemic that ravaged the health and well-being of the entire world and had a profound and ongoing impact on global public health," Tedros said.

"Thanks to their leadership and expertise, these departing members of the senior leadership team made a truly positive difference and their legacy is a strengthened and more agile, equitable, and resilient WHO."

No announcements have yet been made on fresh appointments.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at


  1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper; email addresses will not be published.
  2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.
  3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.
  4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.
  5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed:
  6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email:
  7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy