Dr Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti is the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa. She is the first woman to be elected to this position and is now in her second term. Over the past seven years, Dr Moeti has led a Transformation Agenda that is widely acknowledged to have improved WHO’s performance on emergencies, enhancing accountability and driving progress towards Universal Health Coverage. She leads WHO’s support to the COVID19 pandemic response in Africa.
She is a medical doctor and public health expert with more than 41 years of national and international experience.
Under her leadership, tremendous progress has been made. Wild poliovirus was kicked out of Africa in 2020 – this is the second disease to be eradicated from the Region after smallpox 40 years ago. Investments in areas such as surveillance, training, innovation, community engagement and partnerships have improved country capacities to prepare for and respond to health emergencies and outbreaks of diseases like COVID-19 and Ebola. More broadly, recognition of the need for strong and resilient health systems to manage external shocks, like health emergencies, is building. Most African countries are pursuing reforms to achieve Universal Health Coverage – to expand access to services with attention to equity and reaching the most vulnerable people.
Dr Moeti has worked with WHO for more than 20 years, and prior to this she worked with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) as Team Leader of the Africa and Middle East Desk in Geneva (1997–1999); with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) as Regional Health Advisor for East and Southern Africa; and with Botswana’s Ministry of Health as a clinician and public health specialist.
She is renowned for having led WHO’s “3 by 5” Initiative in Africa at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, resulting in a significant increase in access to antiretroviral therapy among people living with HIV. This helped to shift HIV from a death sentence to a chronic illness in Africa.
Dr Moeti is a great champion for women in leadership in global health and launched a partnership with the UN Volunteers programme which recruited 100 young women from the global south as the next generation of health leaders.
In recognition of her excellent service to humanity, Dr Moeti has received accolades including membership of the United States National Academy of Medicine, an Honorary Fellowship of the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA), an Honorary Fellowship from London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Health and Allied Sciences in Ghana and Honoris Causa Doctorate by Instituto de Higiene e Medicina Tropical, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Portugal. Dr Moeti was named COVID-19 Heroine by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women Development as well as featured among the Women of 2020 in the Financial Times. She also received Special Recognition for African Health Leadership on COVID-19 from Amref Health Africa as well as a Global Health Equity Award from the Africa-American Institute.
Dr Moeti obtained her Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree from the University of London and a Master of Science in Community Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.