IGHI Co-Director appointed as WHO special envoy for coronavirus


Dr David Nabarro at an event

Dr David Nabarro, Imperial's Chair of Global Health, has been appointed as a special envoy for the response to the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak.

The appointment, made by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), was announced on Friday. Dr Nabarro is one of six individuals to have been chosen for the role. 

The role of the special envoys is to "provide strategic advice and high-level political advocacy and engagement in different parts of the world", Dr Tedros said in his announcement, adding that these individuals will help coordinate "the global response to the epidemic".

Dr Nabarro has previously worked on global outbreak responses, having served as a UN System Senior Coordinator for Avian and Pandemic Influenza from 2005 - 2014. He was also an Executive Director in the WHO between 1999 - 2003, and Special Representative of the WHO Director-General responsible for Health Action in Crises 2003 - 2005.

Alongside Professor the Lord Ara Darzi, Dr Nabarro is Co-Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation

Global effort

Dr Nabarro said he is "delighted" at the appointment. "I want to draw on my own international experience, as well as the expertise of current and former colleagues, to help ensure that collective action is at the heart of the COVID-19 response – however long and hard it turns out to be," he added. 

Dr Nabarro described the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak as a major global challenge that requires concerted effort, multi-disciplinary action, employer and employee engagement and the collective capacities of businesses. 

"As the outbreak evolves, any one of us global citizens may be at risk and all of us are likely to be involved in the response in some way or other," he said.

"Doing this well, as a determined community, can only happen if there is full and generous collaboration among all local and national governments, in ways that explicitly avoid political positioning and point-scoring.

"Those of us who have been responsible for outbreak responses in the past have learned to work together in ways that recognise our interdependence and reflect our mutual respect, regardless of who we are and to what we are affiliated. We have learned that we do best if we are willing to share what we know (and do not know) openly with each other, and do all we can to ensure that no person, no community and no nation is left behind.

"This way of working will generate the trust needed for what has to be a massive, synchronised, multi-actor response, and to ensure that it is as effective as it possibly can be. To get there we all have to make a commitment to a truly collective effort: that must be our joint commitment."

Professor Nick Jennings, the College's Vice-Provost for Research and Enterprise, said: "It is with great pride for the College and IGHI that Dr Nabarro has been chosen for this important position. Dr Nabarro’s experience and expertise at this critical time will be essential to unite efforts to tackle this fast-moving and uncertain situation, and help lead us towards the global strategies we need to curb the outbreak.

"In addition, his experiences will continue to be of great value to the College, helping drive forward our research agenda and maximise the impact of our work." 


Justine Alford

Justine Alford
Institute of Global Health Innovation

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 1484
Email: j.alford@imperial.ac.uk

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