Fighting Death and Covid: Mike Ryan of WHO in Straight Talk … and More

Mike Ryan of WHO interviewed by Melissa Fleming

The info-demic can be just as damaging as the pandemic itself, because if people aren’t getting the right information, if they’re not able to trust that information, and then we have a problem. There’s no point having solutions to offer people if they don’t hear about them, or they don’t believe in them,” said Michael (Mike) Ryan in this latest episode.


2 January 2019 – A helicopter transports a wounded health worker with their team including Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the Health Emergencies Programme for WHO (far right) and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General (second from right). Dr. Ryan helped attend to the health worker, who had been wounded in an attack against the Ebola vaccination team in Komanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Evacuated for advanced care, he later recovered from his injuries – Photo: ©WHO/Lindsay Mackenzie

From SARS to Ebola to Avian Flu to COVID-19, Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the Health Emergencies Programme for the World Health Organization (WHO), has committed his life’s work to fight the spread of infectious diseases. Today, he is leading the team responding to the international containment and treatment of COVID-19.

Mike speaks about giving up on dreams of becoming a trauma surgeon after breaking his spine in a car crash in Iraq. He was held hostage there while working in an Iraqi hospital during the first Gulf War. That experience set him on the path to the WHO, with a specialism in infectious diseases. “It was very clear to me that you were either a surgeon or a good infectious disease doctor, because that seemed to be the two things a doctor could make a difference with, in many developing country environments.”

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MELISSA FLEMING ……. Melissa Fleming is the United Nations’ Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications as of 1 September 2019.

“[O]ccasionally being naughty with my friends, we would stop in town and roam around and sort of walk around and I was less than 11 years old, but with other friends. And we were very clear that if there’s a white kid coming, walking in the opposite direction on the curb, you don’t get out of the way for this person. So those kinds of small defiances. So by by the time I was 11 leaving South Africa, I knew there was something very wrong with the society we live in.” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti talks to Melissa about her childhood in Botswana and aparthied South Africa, and her fears about the effect of COVID-19, especially on women ”The impact economically is going to make them even more vulnerable to many things, not just to COVID itself.”

Dr. Moeti is the first female Regional Director for Africa for WHO. Now she’s the face of the COVID-19 fight in Africa, but she says facing the pandemic is easier than where she started her career as a doctor – fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1990s.

:: Matshidiso Moeti interviewed by Melissa Fleming
A group photo of the team working on the interview. Neil Walsh and Melissa Fleming are at the front of the photo.

Neil Walsh, Chief of Cybercrime and Anti-Money Laundering for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, describes the horrific surge of criminals exploiting and abusing children online while they are in lock-down and what he is doing to stop it. He speaks about his belief that “COVID-19 is the great reset button.” He also describes the scene he witnessed of a deadly terrorist bombing as a child in Belfast, Northern Ireland and how “that was the moment where I decided I’m going to do something to stop this stuff.”

He also speaks candidly about his continuing 14-year battle with bowel cancer and why he is so vocal on social media about his struggle with the disease. There were four occasions where he was told by a doctor, ‘you may not survive tonight.’

:: Neil Walsh interviewed by Melissa Fleming
David Beasley inspects a storage facility with colleagues at hand.

In this opening episode for Season 3 of Awake at Night, host Melissa Fleming speaks with David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, about his own experience being sick with COVID-19 and why people should listen to the science. He also explains why the pandemic is causing an spiraling epidemic of hunger. In Mr. Beasley’s words, should the world fail to come together and invest in people everywhere, we may face “famines of biblical proportions.”

From his home in South Carolina, to Yemen, to Sudan and Ethiopia, Mr. Beasley shares candid moments of his journey in the world of humanitarian work, and his thoughts on why the UN is needed now more than ever.

:: David Beasley interviewed by Melissa Fleming

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One response to “Fighting Death and Covid: Mike Ryan of WHO in Straight Talk … and More

  1. “Famines of biblical proportions” cannot come within a million miles of ‘famines of Chinese proportions’ the most recent of which resulted in 36 to 45 million dead.
    If they did that to their own, just imagine what they might do to a tiny, vassal state.

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