Establishing a regional platform for evidence-based epidemic and pandemic preparedness in the Middle East and North Africa
Global disease outbreaks have been heavily influenced by several factors, including climate change, urbanization, globalization, overpopulation and changing human-animal interfaces. These phenomena have produced a wide range of impacts on humans. The Middle East and North Africa has experienced outbreaks in the recent past such as the 2009 outbreak of influenza A (H1N1), MERS-CoV in 2012, a devastating cholera epidemic in Yemen since 2016, and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. While most countries in the region have national capacity for rapid investigation and response to public health threats, COVID-19 exposed fragmented, weak and inadequately resourced health systems. These vulnerabilities affect all aspects of health systems, including, but not limited to, supply chains, essential medicines, laboratory capacity, a trained health workforce and digital infrastructure, which consistently affect the most disadvantaged groups the most disproportionately.
To contribute to better pandemic preparedness and response in the region, this project will establish an interdisciplinary and intersectoral program to generate and promote region-specific evidence and its application. Priority focus areas include supporting reliable information systems, strengthening health workforce capacity, seeding and nurturing collaborations and responsive governance mechanisms, and systematically addressing gender inequalities and other forms of exclusion. Expected outcomes include improved evidence-based health policy and decision-making for epidemic and pandemic preparedness and response; enhanced workforce capacity; strengthened analysis and integration of gender equality and inclusion within governance mechanisms, policies and practices; and a regional data portal to both support evidence-based pandemic preparedness and response and reduce misinformation.