The world must be ‘one family’ in the fight against coronavirus and leaders ‘will not be forgiven’ if they fail to work together to defeat it, said an official from the World Health Organization (WHO) during the special online edition of the Education City Speaker Series, organised by Qatar Foundation in collaboration with the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH).

Audiences from all over the world were tuned in to the event – Flattening the Curve: Global Responses to COVID-19 – as speakers discussed the challenges COVID-19 has presented to the world, how different countries are battling to overcome them, the risks that lie ahead, and the potential for developing a vaccine to combat the virus.


In the wake of the US announcement that it will halt funding for WHO, Dr David Nabarro, the organisation’s Special Envoy on COVID-19, said that this is not the time to look backwards.

We need to work in solidarity, at a community level, and within and between countries. Without solidarity, we will not win. We plead with everyone to look forward, focus on the epic struggle that is taking place right now, and leave the recriminations until later.

He said that every single person in the world is a public health worker. Everyone is making sacrifices, taking responsibility, and getting involved. He said that we should look at global leaders straight in the eye and say: the future of our world is in your hands, you must work together, and you will not be forgiven if you don’t.

Dr Nabarro described the current global situation as the new normal we have to get used to. He said that if we argue about it, the virus will find its way between us and catch us out, and we will be asking ourselves why we didn’t move more quickly, develop a unified strategic approach and implement it.

We owe it not only to the people of our nations, but the people of the world – we are one family.

Dr Ahmed Al Mandhari,  WHO’s Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean – and which includes the Gulf Cooperation Council nations – said governments must rebuild, re-establish, redevelop, and rethink how they are running healthcare systems.

Over the years, many countries have overlooked the need to invest in basic health measures that have saved many lives.

At a community level, COVID-19 will definitely change people’s habits and behaviours. He said that it will make people more conscious of their own health and that of others, and hopefully, it will bring governments, different sectors, partners, and donors together to face the pandemic.

The forthcoming Ramadan period will, according to Dr Al Mandhari, be a real challenge in terms of people adhering to social distancing, but he said that WHO is working with Islamic groups and scholars to develop recommendations and give clear guidance to Muslims during the Holy Month.

We have to take these public health measures – as proven in many countries, they will help to control the disease and help us to save lives.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, told the livestreamed discussion that the continent’s COVID-19 challenges range from testing capacity outside capital cities and the weakness of its healthcare systems, to shortage of critical supplies. The fact that while governments are doing a lot of work informing people on what needs to be done to protect themselves, this is not possible in some settings because of lack of even the most basic social services such as running water.

Providing a Qatar-based context to the discussion, Dr Salih Ali Al Marri, Assistant Minister for Health Affairs at the Ministry of Public Health said that working together is key to success, and what is important is the way the community is adhering to measures that have been put in place.

The event was moderated by journalist and documentary-maker Mishal Husain.

Click here for more information about the event.