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National Batho Pele Excellence Award for Rees

- Wits University

This accolade acknowledges and recognises her outstanding contributions to COVID-19 research in 2021/2022.

Professor Helen Rees

Professor Helen Rees, Executive Director of Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (Wits RHI), has been awarded the prestigious Ministerial COVID-19 Special Award at the National Batho Pele Excellence Awards in the Platinum Category in recognition of her outstanding contributions to COVID-19 research in 2021/2022.

The Public Service and Administration Minister, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo, recognises the creative achievements and contributions of public servants who have gone the extra mile in accelerating service delivery. Batho Pele is a Sotho word meaning “People First”. This implies that public servants should put communities at the centre when rendering services. Batho Pele is a government initiative that aims to enhance the quality and accessibility of government initiatives and services.

Watch the awards ceremony.

Rees is internationally recognised as an award-winning health practitioner who has dedicated her professional career to improving global health with a focus on public health in Africa. Over the years she has received numerous national and international awards for her contribution to science and to the South African, African and global health sectors. She is an Officer of the British Empire awarded for her contribution to global health and received the Order of the Baobab, one of South Africa’s highest honours, for her contribution to the health of women and children. Her most recent accolade received, was the prestigious L'ordre national du Mérite (National Order of Merit) by the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron, in recognition of her groundbreaking and outstanding medical career.

She chairs the Board of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority and also Chairs the World Health Organisation’s AFRO Region Immunization Technical Advisory Group. Rees has extensive involvement in national, regional and global response efforts to COVID-19 including the development of COVID-19 vaccines, their potential rollout and utilization. She is a member of the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 and a member of the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 vaccines. Furthermore, she is involved with the oversight of the COVAX facility that GAVI, CEPI and WHO are jointly driving. She is a member of the COVAX committee on COVID-19 maternal immunization and a member of the WHO IHR Emergency Committee on COVID-19, a member of the WHO Expert Committee on COVID-19 vaccines, and a member of WHO’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards. She also chairs the WHO’s International Health Regulation Polio Emergency Committee and Co-Chairs the WHO SAGE Working Group on Ebola Vaccines. She is a member of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization Board and chairs the Gavi Programme and Policy Committee. She is a member of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation Board and chairs the CEPI Scientific Advisory Committee.

She is honoured to receive this award from the Public Service and Administration Minister and acknowledges that this personal recognition reflects the work of many committed and talented colleagues. She would like to also acknowledge and congratulate the other recipient winners, Professor Tulio de Olivera, Professor Mosa Moshabela and Sandile Cele from Africa Health Research Institute.