Helen Clark relishing 'terrifying' chance to tackle COVID-19 at World Health Organization

Helen Clark says she couldn't refuse to head the World Health Organization's (WHO's) COVID-19 review, despite calling it an "exceptional challenge".

The WHO has set up an independent review into its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, naming Helen Clark as one of two women to lead it.

Clark has led the United Nations (UN) Development Programme, helped tackle the Ebola crisis and served as Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Now, she's taking on her biggest challenge yet - one that affects the entire world and will save lives.

"It is a massive challenge; quite terrifying in some ways because it's the biggest issue of our lifetimes," she told Newshub.

Helen Clark was named alongside former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to head the panel.

"I cannot imagine two more strong-minded, independent leaders to help guide us through this critical learning process," said WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

In Friday's announcement, the WHO Director-General wiped tears from his cheeks as he said a lack of global leadership was a bigger threat than the virus itself.

"How is it difficult for humans to unite to fight a common enemy?" he asked.

Clark said she's happy to help.

"These people have been living and breathing and experiencing this at the heart of the storm for months and months now," she said.

"The stress must be just about unbearable - and that's why when he called me and said would I help, I thought I have to help."

Due to travel restrictions, the job will require a lot of Zoom calls from New Zealand.

"I'm hoping to do it all virtually because it's not that easy to come and go, come and go from New Zealand at the moment for obvious reasons - so I suspect there'll be a lot of night shifts," said Clark.

"There will be another disease like this emerge.  There will be many more diseases like this emerge.  The issue is, do we have it in our power to stop them getting away like this one did?"

The review will look to learn from the past and ready the world for future global outbreaks.