Abu Dhabi: If the COVID-19 pandemic has proven anything, it is that the world can only face diseases and outbreaks by coming together, Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, member of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, said.
“Our best bet is to continue collaborating across borders to lay solid foundations for action, encourage the exchange of expertise between countries and rally international efforts to face any health challenges that may arise in the future,” Sheikh Hamed told the virtual Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed on Monday.
The importance of a global, collective effort to eradicate infectious diseases and create a healthier world for all was explored in the latest talk in the Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed Ramadan Series, which aired on Monday.
Titled ‘Safer and Stronger Together: Improving Global Health and Wellbeing,’ the talk featured Sheikh Hamed, in conversation with local and international experts involved in combating communicable illnesses and advancing the global health agenda. A key focus during the discussion was the importance of global collaboration for defeating the current coronavirus pandemic.
Taking part in the talk were Reem Al Hashimi, Minister of State for International Cooperation; Dr Larry Brilliant, Physician, Epidemiologist and Chair of the Advisory Board of the NGO Ending Pandemics; Abdullah Khalifa Al Ghafli, Director of the UAE-Pakistan Assistance Programme; Dr Maha Barakat, Director General of Frontline Heroes Office, Nassar Al Mubarak, Senior Director at the Crown Prince Court; and Dr Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares.
Reaching the last mile
Placing humanity’s successful eradication of the smallpox virus in the context of current efforts to overcome the coronavirus pandemic, the speakers highlighted the ongoing battle against other devastating diseases, such as polio and malaria. A theme explored throughout the session was the concept of ‘reaching the last mile’, which was described as the most important and final phase of consigning any infectious disease to history.
“The UAE has always been at the forefront of efforts through its initiatives and field work under the guidance of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan who made the concept of ‘reaching the last mile’ a top priority of the UAE’s Agenda for Sustainable Development. The UAE was also able to translate this trend in the spirit of collective responsibility into a rapid response as it started to ship and deliver medical aid and equipment for various uses, and most importantly, the urgent distribution of vaccines through the Coalition of Hope,” Al Hashimi said.
Eradication of small pox
Dr Larry Brilliant expressed his opinion that technology would be instrumental in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, with innovation in relation to vaccine development and diagnostic tests playing a major role. He drew comparisons with how humanity successfully overcame smallpox, saying that the last mile involves each individual being vaccinated to ensure society’s collective safety.
“Technology should make us optimistic for the future. With Covid-19 - as with smallpox - none of us are going to be safe until all of us are safe. As long as there is COVID-19 anywhere, there’s COVID-19 everywhere. So we must work together to reach the last mile with vaccines to protect people from COVID-19, just as we did to protect them from smallpox. Unless we reach the last mile, we won’t be safe anywhere,” he said.
Dr. Maha Barakat drew attention to humanity’s success in making smallpox a disease of the past and the ambitious attempts to eradicate malaria, with efforts to eliminate the tropical disease once and for all now stretching into the last mile.
Nassar Al Mubarak highlighted how the UAE’s progress in overcoming life-threatening infectious diseases has meant that it can now assist other countries in achieving the same outcome, while Dr Tariq Al Gurg spoke of how education and health are intertwined and closely related. Finally, Abdullah Al Ghafli praised the efforts of the Emirates Polio Campaign workers who have played a major role in efforts to eradicate polio in Pakistan as part of the UAE-Pakistan Assistance Programme.
The Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed is held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. Established to promote learning and reflection during the holy month and beyond, the series aims to stimulate discussion on issues that have a bearing on all communities everywhere.
This year’s Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed Ramadan Series is a virtual Majlis that is running in conjunction with the celebrations taking place across the country for the Year of the 50th. Community members are being invited to watch the episodes, engage with the topics being discussed and reflect on the UAE’s eventful history – one that has seen it progress from a small, localised community into a global hub of trade, commerce and tourism.
Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed Ramadan Series episodes are airing weekly during the holy month on Mondays at 5.45pm on Emarat TV Channel and on the MBZ Majlis YouTube Channel, with reruns aired on Wednesdays. Future topics in the series will explore issues that include youth, resilient communities and life-long learning.