Archive | May, 2020

The WHO manual I contributed to is now in Chinese 我撰写的世界卫生组织手册现在是中文

31 May

I have received the following email from Andreas Reis, from the Health Ethics Unit at WHO HQ (Geneva) with some good news.

Dear Colleagues,


I am happy to report that our WHO Training Manual on Ethics in Epidemics, Emergencies and Disasters has been translated into Chinese.

Actually, this happened a few months ago, but I thought it would be worth sharing it given the current epidemic.


Here is the link for the Chinese version of the publication:


TR/17/016 – Ethics in epidemics, emergencies and disasters: Research, surveillance and patient care – Training manual 2015 (‎5.807Mb)‎


Thanks and best wishes,


Ghaiath Hussein UNESCO video message

12 May

Among other prominent bioethics experts in the Arab region, I had the privilege of being invited by the UNESCO\’s regional office to contribute a short message. My focus was on the environmental ethical aspects.

This is the excerpt of my message:
\”Ethics of the Environment and Global Health

The current pandemic has changed our lives. We survived some form of restrictive measures. When the choice was between life and the economy; the sensible global action was to save lives.
We have learned that we are part of an ecosystem. If we invade the animals’ habitats, they will come closer to us. Transmission of viruses becomes more likely, more virulent and harder to control.
We might have considered climate change as a far indirect threat. If we deal with it the way we managed the pandemic at the start by delaying and downplaying; the cost is much higher.
As for what we did to save our lives now, we can do the same to save them in the future.
Global cooperation is mandatory to face common threats. We can encourage sharing data to build more reliable databases that we need to come to faster solutions this true for saving the planet as it is for fighting the pandemic.  We have invented ways to care and encourage each other and survive. That’s what we need to keep doing to save our most precious from irreversible damage of losing our earth.
Science should be the guide – not politics. World leaders and us, as global citizens, do not lack the political will to make and take hard decisions. Saving our planet needs less dramatic actions and it is more rewarding.
Personal choices matter. One infected person staying home instead of going out could save thousands of lives. The same also applies to our individual choices regarding climate change, like those related to the use of plastic, transportation, clothes, etc. What will be you next eco-friendly personal, political or economic choice?

We need to do this together. We need to do it ethically. Thank you.\”

Webinar Series on “Covid-19 response and impact in the Arab region: reflections and recommendations from bioethical perspectives”

7 May
  شارك د. غياث محمد عباس ضمن سلسلة لقاءات فيديو نظمتها منظمة الأمم المتحدة للثقافة والعلوم والتربية -اليونسكو- ضمت مجموعة من خبراء الأخلاقيات الصحية في الوطن العربي
Dr Ghaiath Hussein contributes to a webinar series organized by UNESCO that included bioethics experts from the Arab region. The following is the excerpt of his contribution:
Highlighting the Ethical Dimensions in COVID-19 Responses and Impact
in the Arab region
       I.          Video messages highlighting the Ethical and Social Perspectives of the COVID-19 Global Crisis
Ethics of the Environment and Global Health
It is needless to say how COVID-19 pandemic has changed our life now, and probably for some time to come. Almost every government on the planet has taken some action to contain it. Many of them adopted very restrictive measures, like physical distancing, ‘stay-at-home’ orders, and complete lock-down, despite the heavy economical price of these interventions. When the choice was between life and the economy; the sensible global action was to save lives.
But have you considered why such a swift and global action was not taken to face the more existential threat of losing our planet?
I would not undermine the effect of the current pandemic but it will eventually go, albeit the high cost in terms of lost lives and jobs. In contrast, the damage that we do to the planet will last. The pandemic is controllable and reversible. Environmental loss is not. According to The New Climate Economy report, “The next 10-15 years are a unique ‘use it or lose it’ moment in economic history.”. If we are losing jobs now with almost all the big stock-markets turning ‘red’ with millions of jobs lost; our loss from losing the environment will be more devastating, with an estimate of climate-related disasters cost the world a hefty $160 billion in 2018. These disasters were attributed to a higher temperature, less rainfall, and drought. All contribute to extreme weather phenomena like wildfires and hurricanes.

Today, I will share with you my reflections on two main questions:
Given what I have just mentioned in the introduction, then why don’t we respond to the environmental challenges the way we do with COVID-19 response? Also, what can we learn from our global response to COVID-19 pandemic to use in responding to the environmental challenge?

For the first question, I believe there are three main factors that made our response swift, global, and even ‘draconian’ at times.
First, humans tend to believe what they see. We may find excuses to doubt the predicted unseen, regardless of how precise such a prediction is. But when it comes to a threat we see (and live), this is a game-changer. We act immediately and fiercely to save our lives and the lives of our beloved ones. Second, there was a single known cause for the COVID-19 pandemic that has a known place of origin. Unfortunately, it is easier to blame someone elsefor it. Third, despite some inequalities, the virus was quite egalitarian in that nobody felt 100% secure from being hit, including celebrities and the rich.
Given these factors, COVID-19 proved hard to deny with the piling death bags worldwide. Sadly, this was not the way most of the world saw and felt the threat related to climate change. It seemed predicted rather than real or imminent; complicated rather than focused; someone else’s problem not mine; thus was ‘easier’ to ignore or even deny.
Here comes a second key question that relates us all: how to learn from our response to the pandemic for our climate change combat?
Although there may not be direct causal links between climate change and the current pandemic, yet there are strong relations that can help us make the solutions relatable.
The animal-origin of the virus should make us more aware of how the way we encroach on their habitats increased the risk of such disease. This rapid dismantling of life on earth owes primarily to habitat loss, which occurs mostly from growing crops and raising livestock for people. With fewer places to live and fewer food sources to feed on, animals find food and shelter where people are, and that can lead to disease spread. Also, the overconsumption of animals including wild animals and pets as food makes it easier for the viruses to transfer from animals to other animals and to humans and mutate.
Moreover, people who are exposed to higher levels of air pollution, who are most often people living in poorer areas fare worse if infected with COVID-19 than those who are breathing cleaner air and who don’t smoke, which was also true for SARS. Finally, the healthcare systems in many parts of the world were already suffering the consequences of climate-related events like hurricanes.
Overall, the relations between environmental changes and the recent endemics and pandemics are hard to ignore.

Given what we know, have you considered how we can and have to learn from our response to COVID-19 to establish more global?
We should not wait until the danger becomes imminent. As for the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, some leaders chose to undermine its danger in full denial. Then what happened? The danger was found to be very real and the time lost in denying the danger only made it worse and made the management much more expensive.
The same applies to climate change. Wasting time debating the science of climate change and the threat it poses could lead us to the same path. But that time, we may not have the time or the resources to deal with it. The damage will have been devastating and existential, quite literally. We won’t be able to find someone else to blame.
The current pandemic has shown us that there are common dangers to all human lives, which necessitates global reaction. Thinking that a closed border can protect us is now a fallacy. All humans need and rely on all humans. The UNESCO statement emphasized that an international effort is recommended to ensure effective management of the pandemic by enacting an interdisciplinary dialogue among scientific, ethical, and political actors. It also highlighted that cooperation is essential at all levels: governments, public and private sectors, civil society, and international and regional organizations.

Have you considered how much we needed each other through the crisis? Within our neighbourhoods and among the countries and nations, we have signs of support and hope along with other signals of failures, especially when we discovered how hard it is to ration the resources we have. Have you thought that we could have been doing this to our environment for decades now? We have been taking beyond our need and without compensation for what we take. Just as we have lost lives when the resources failed us, so can the greatest resource of all – our planet – do to all of us when the changes we do keep on adding insult to an irreversible ever-growing wound.
Another lesson is that science should be the guide – not politics. Policy-makers without scientists are not only misled but also misleading. As for the pandemics, the climate change debates and decisions should be that of reliable knowledge, not delusional politics. “Policies which are not based on sound scientific knowledge and practices are unethical”

Obviously, world leaders do not lack political will. This is very clear in the current pandemic. When they came face to face with an imminent threat, they acted. We can do the same with climate change.
And it is not only about politicians. Ordinary people were forced to make dramatic changes in the way they live and work. People around the globe are coping with ‘new normal’. It is hard but possible. Why not the same when it comes to saving not only our lives but the lives of those we care about, now and for centuries to come. We are trying to keep our children safe from getting the infection and so should we work as hard to make their life possible and safe on this planet. This will not be possible if we keep ignoring the climate changes and their impact on our life.
Both the climate crisis and unfolding pandemic threaten this one thing we all care about as humans and as global citizens.
Now let’s think about what we, as individuals and communities, can do?
When it comes to the spread of COVID-19, personal choices matter. One infected person staying home instead of going out could save thousands of lives. The same also applies to our individual choices regarding climate change, like those related to the use of plastic, transportation, clothes, etc. What will be your next eco-friendly choice?
Finally, we need to refer to the economic costs of our choices. Most of the world chose health over wealth in the current pandemic and we are cautiously considering how to restore the economy. To face climate change, less drastic, less expensive and even more rewarding interventions are needed and can be made.

We can make many smart investments to avert another outbreak. When we eventually overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, we can hopefully hold on to that sense of shared humanity in order to rebuild our social and economic systems to make them better, more resilient, and compassionate. The financial and social support packages to maintain and eventually resuscitate the global post-pandemic economy should, therefore, promote health, equity, paying attention to vulnerable and environmental protection.

What I want to leave you thinking about is how to make our relationship with the environment more ethically-guided, more sustainable and to maintain the positive (environmental) changes we have taken last longer.
Thank you.\”

كيف نتعامل مع الأرقام خلال جائحة كورونا؟

2 May

الأرقام ومعانيها…

أصبح من الروتين اليومي لمعظمنا منذ بداية الجائحة أن نتابع كم إصابة سجلت وكم توفيت وكم تعافت؟…
لكن هل هذه هي الأرقام التي يجب أن نعرفها فعلا لتعطينا المؤشرات الصحيحة عن الوضع الصحي؟ بل كيف جاءت هذه الأرقام وهل يمكننا الوثوق بها؟
في هذه المقاطع يشرح د. غياث حسين كيف نتعامل مع هذه الأرقام؟ وما هي الأرقام التي يجب الانتباه لها؟ (مع التركيز بطبيعة الحال على السودان كنموذج)

Publication of the COVID-19 Research Ethics Guidelines

2 May

I had the honor to contribute to the Guidelines for research on Living Creatures in Epidemics/Pandemics and Emergencies produced by the Saudi National Bioethics Committee (NBCE), which has been approved and to which researchers and local ethics committees are requested to adhere.

شرفت بأن يتم تكليفي ضمن مجموعة من الخبراء في المملكة العربية السعودية للمشاركة في إعداد أنظمة وضوابط أخلاقيات البحث على المخلوقات الحية ولائحته التنفيذية التي أصدرتها اللجنة الوطنية للأخلاقيات الحيوية،  والتي ويجب التقيد والالتزام بإجراءات السلامة الحيوية المعتمدة أثناء القيام بهذه البحوث.