Expo 2020 Dubai: Frontline heroes recount personal sacrifices at special event

The world fair's Health and Wellness Week kicked off by honouring frontline workers and their 'unsung' heroic gestures


Anjana Sankar

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Published: Fri 28 Jan 2022, 3:17 PM

Last updated: Sat 29 Jan 2022, 10:08 AM

Pamela Zeinoun was on duty at St. George Hospital University Medical Centre, when an explosion ripped through Beirut in August 2020, reducing the hospital and buildings in the neighbourhood to rubble.

But the 26-year-old paediatric nurse waded through the debris of the intensive care unit and scooped a twin brother and sister and another baby in her arms and dashed out to safety. Her heroic act saved three precious lives. Later, photographs of her cradling three babies - all healthy today - went viral on social media.

At the opening day of Expo 2020 Dubai’s Health and Wellness Week on January 27, Zeinoun recounted the day she risked her life and went beyond her duty.

“As a healthcare provider that day, I did my best to keep the babies alive and refused to leave them. It was my duty as a nurse to walk a few extra miles and to (protect life),” she said.

“I wish my story could inspire you - many people from around the world - to stay strong and to never give up.”

The special event held at Terra - The Sustainability Pavilion celebrated everyday acts and ‘unsung’ heroic gestures and featured first account of several frontline workers of the Covid-19 pandemic and the sacrifices they made to save lives.

Speaking at the event, Dr Maha Barakat, director-general of the UAE’s Frontline Heroes Office, said history is replete with examples of how selfless work by frontline workers saved millions of lives.

“If smallpox had not been eradicated, remember these (were) all the efforts of frontline workers, 40 million people would have died … if we didn’t do all our efforts to try to control and eliminate malaria, we’d have (had) over 7.6 million people - mostly children - die in the last decade. All of these were prevented,” said Barakat.


“5.6 million people have died of Covid-19 in the last two years. Imagine if we didn’t have frontline workers supporting in hospitals, getting health systems as strong as possible and administering the almost 10 billion doses of Covid vaccine. Imagine what that grim figure would have been.”

Dr Ujala Nayyar of the World Health Organisation (WHO), serving as part of the PEI (Polio Eradication Initiative) in Pakistan's Punjab, spoke on the role of women working on the frontlines to distribute routine vaccinations in resource-limited areas. She touched on her work to help eradicate the life-threatening disease, as the South Asian country simultaneously battled Covid-19.

“Pakistan, for the first time, has completed one year polio-free. So, if we can do this, we can go for the next five years as well. I see eradication after the next five years for sure,” said Nayyar.

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