Episode 11 : A conversation with Dr. Jemilah Mahmood

Malaysia has been very successful in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. While many countries are reporting millions of positive cases, Malaysia has registered less than 90,000 and 429 deaths on a population of over 30 million people.  Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, Special Advisor on Public Health to Malaysia’s prime minister since March 2020 talked to us about the secret behind this success.

Dr. Mahmood started her career as a medical doctor before becoming a humanitarian in her own country and rising to the multilateral humanitarian system’s highest levels as the head of Secretariat of the World Humanitarian Summit and the Under-Secretary-General for Partnerships in the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

In this episode of Interpeace’s Resilience Webcast, Dr. Mahmood talks about Malaysia’s significant efforts to prevent the pandemic from becoming a source of political polarization. She explains how decades of investment in public health and the opportunity to learn from previous epidemics have been key factors that account for its success. However, these factors alone are not sufficient. Building trust between the government and the population through reliable sources of information, community engagement, and comprehensive communications have also been critical to effectively managing the pandemic. In this sense, Dr. Mahmood emphasizes the importance of the authorities’ strong messaging and transparency and the public’s compliance with the government’s measures to contain the virus. “Nobody went to the streets complaining about having to wear a mask,” she says.

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