Indian-Origin Health Expert Anil Soni Appointed as First CEO of WHO foundation

Indian-origin global health expert Anil Soni has been named as the first Chief Executive Officer of the newly launched WHO foundation. He will assume his role on the 1st of January next year. The Geneva-headquartered Foundation is an independent grant-making agency launched this May to complement the World Health Organization’s efforts in addressing urgent global health challenges.

In a press meeting, the Foundation said that the appointment will accelerate its “work to invest in innovative, evidence-based initiatives that support WHO in delivering on its mission to ensure heal healthy lives and promote well-being for all.”

As a separate legal entity, the WHO Foundation will act as a platform for new types of public-private engagement, while protecting the WHO’s neutrality and independence as the world’s leading international health authority, a WHO note explained. The current aim is to raise $1 billion in three years to support global health initiatives.

Soni earlier worked with Viatris, a global healthcare company, where he headed its Global Infectious Diseases unit. He was also closely involved in the early years of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, serving as the Advisor to the Executive Director and then as the Founding Executive Director. He served as the CEO of the Clinton Health Access Initiative where he worked from 2005-2010 and oversaw the rapid expansion of the organisation. He has also been a senior advisor to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the MDG Health Alliance.

Professor Thomas Zeltner, Founder and Chairman of the Foundation’s board, observed that Soni is a dynamic leader with experience across all aspects of global public health. “From his work at Viatris, where he has led the development and introduction of medicines to treat HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, to his leadership of the Clinton Health Access Initiative and his time at the Global Fund, he has demonstrated his ability to work across public, private, and nonprofit sectors and build successful new organizations from the ground up,” he said.

TedrosAdhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said that Soni had earned his trust “when he and his team at the Clinton Health Access Initiative worked side by side with the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia to expand access to treatment and strengthen the management of our health centers.” On his appointment, Soni commented that beyond Covid-19 vaccines, recovery from the pandemic required “expanded investment in health priorities that had been compromised in recent months — from drops in vaccine coverage and HIV treatment to delays in cancer treatment”. He added that “The WHO Foundation represents a unique new opportunity for everyone in the world to play their part in tackling these challenges and in promoting global health, through a strong and vibrant WHO.”

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