Amid funding woes, WHO Foundation appoints Indian origin Anil Soni as CEO

Hoping to strengthen its funding, the World Health Organization appointed Indian origin Anil Soni as CEO to a foundation intended to bring in more private donations.?

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Anil Soni will join the new WHO Foundation in January after eight years with the multinational pharmaceutical Viatris. (Photo: ReliefWeb)

The World Health Organisation on Monday appointed Indian Anil Soni as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the WHO Foundation.

Hoping to strengthen its funding, the World Health Organization appointed Soni as CEO to a foundation intended to bring in more private donations.

The funding is expected to leave the global health body less vulnerable if a country withdraws or cuts funding as the United States did.

Anil Soni will join the new WHO Foundation in January after eight years with the multinational pharmaceutical Viatris. At Vitaris, he served as Head of Global Infectious Diseases, working across the pharmaceutical company to accelerate the availability of new and innovative treatments.

"We are at a critical juncture for global public health. After months of combatting the Covid-19 pandemic, there is hope for several successful vaccine candidates. Beyond this crucial step, the path to recovery necessitates expanded investment in the many health priorities that have been compromised in recent months - from drops in vaccine coverage and HIV treatment to delays in cancer treatment...I’m thrilled to be joining the Foundation at such a critical moment and look forward to working with the Board to realize the Foundation’s mission,” Soni said.

Speaking of the new appointment, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO chief, said, “Anil is a proven innovator in global health who has spent two decades in service of communities affected by HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. He earned my 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 centres. Anil has a unique set of skills that spans the public and private sectors, and his leadership of the Foundation will provide invaluable support to the mission of the WHO and the billions of people who depend on it.”

This year’s global coronavirus pandemic, as well as the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the world health body, has exposed the WHO’s fragile funding base.

The WHO relies largely upon voluntary contributions from member nations as well as a handful of large foundations. That has left it open to criticism that it’s vulnerable to outside influence at the expense of global health priorities.

In an interview with The Associated Press ahead of the WHO Foundation announcement, Anil Soni said his priority is to seek out corporate and individual donations.

He said the foundation will ultimately assume control of the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund, which has raised $238 million so far.

Anil Soni was closely involved in the early years of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, serving as the Advisor to the Executive Director from 2002-2004 and then as the Founding Executive Director of Friends of the Global Fight from 2004-2005. He served as the CEO of the Clinton Health Access Initiative, where he worked from 2005-2010 and oversaw the rapid expansion of the organization.

He has been a senior advisor to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the MDG Health Alliance. He is an alumnus of McKinsey and Harvard College and serves on the board of The Marshall Project.

(with inputs from AP)