World Health Organization Launches Global Commission on Loneliness Co-Chaired by Youngest African Union Diplomat, Chido Cleopatra Mpemba and the US Surgeon General

In response to the escalating global health threat of loneliness, the World Health Organization (WHO) has initiated a groundbreaking international commission dedicated to addressing this pressing issue. The commission, led by US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and African Union Youth Envoy Chido Cleopatra Mpemba, the youngest diplomat in the African Union Chairperson's Cabinet, comprises 11 influential advocates and government ministers.

World Health Organization Launches Global Commission on Loneliness Co-Chaired by Youngest African Union Diplomat, Chido Cleopatra Mpemba and US Surgeon General
Chido Mpemba at the Mastercard Foundation Incredible Africans panel
 in New York held on the sidelines of the 78th United Nations General Assembly

The commission, operating under the World Health Organization, aims to tackle loneliness, a concern deemed by Dr. Murthy as having mortality effects equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Among its distinguished members are Ralph Regenvanu, the Minister of Climate Change Adaptation in Vanuatu, and Ayuko Kato, the Japanese Minister in charge of measures for loneliness and isolation.

The initiative follows the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted economic and social activities, leading to an unprecedented surge in loneliness worldwide. The WHO Commission on Social Connection is set to span three years, seeking to combat this global public health concern affecting individuals irrespective of age, borders, or socio-economic status.

Chido Cleopatra Mpemba, the Youth Envoy at the African Union Commission, emphasized the broad impact of loneliness on health, well-being, and development. In her statement, she highlighted the unique challenges faced in Africa, where a predominantly young population grapples with issues such as peace, security, climate crises, and high unemployment rates, contributing to increased social isolation.

Mpemba stressed the need to redefine the narrative surrounding loneliness, especially for vulnerable populations excluded by the digital divide. "Social isolation knows no age or boundaries," she declared.

As the youngest senior official in the history of the African Union and the youngest diplomat in the Chairperson's cabinet, Chido Cleopatra Mpemba assumed the role of African Union Youth Envoy in November 2021. Born in 1988 in Harare and raised in Bulawayo, Mpemba attended Girls' College High School before pursuing a degree in Labour Organisational Psychology and Human Resource Management at Cape Town University in South Africa. Her dedication to leadership in business led her to Dartmouth College during her Mandela Washington Fellowship in 2016.

Prior to her role at the African Union, Mpemba served as a banker at Standard Chartered Bank and worked at the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts, and Recreation. Her commitment to championing youth development issues in Africa aligns with the WHO Commission's mission to address loneliness globally.

This innovative commission marks a significant step towards acknowledging and addressing loneliness as a critical public health concern, with a focus on fostering social connections and well-being on a global scale.

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Mungwadzi Godwin

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