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The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed fault lines in public health systems in the Middle East, where public health institutions vary widely. In Gulf states, citizens receive high quality health care, but the same is not true of foreign worker populations. Middle income countries in the region offer good health services to those who can afford them, while those who cannot have less or no access. In countries like Yemen and in Syria’s worn torn towns, nothing resembling a functioning health system, public or private, exists. The difficulty of supplying health services to refugees and displaced persons presents yet more difficulties. All this is not new, but the COVID crisis has afforded an opportunity to examine how access to health care plays out in a crisis. More importantly, the crisis can help guide domestic policymakers and international partners toward immediate and longer-term actions to improve public health delivery and prepare for the next crisis.

The Rafik Hariri Center and the United Nations Development Program’s Regional Bureau for Arab States are pleased to co-host a virtual discussion with experts who will not only discuss why the response to the pandemic has met with varying degrees of success, but will also address how policymakers and other stakeholders can better confront public health challenges of all kinds.

This live virtual event was held via Zoom on Monday, July 13, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.


Dr. Adel Abdellatif
Deputy Regional Director, Regional Bureau for Arab States
United Nations Development Program

Dr. Lina AbiRafeh
Executive Director
Arab Institute for Women (AiW)

Dr. Ali Mokdad
Director of Middle Eastern Initiatives and Professor of Global Health
Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington

Moderated by:

Ms. Tuqa Nusairat
Deputy Director, Rafik Hariri Center & Middle East Programs
Atlantic Council