Call for Papers — COVID-19 and high impact respiratory pathogens: epidemic and pandemic preparedness in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region


BMJ Global Health, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMRO), are pleased to announce a call for papers on COVID-19 and high impact respiratory pathogens: epidemic and pandemic preparedness in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region.

The special issue will be guest edited by Prof. Ziad Memish, Director, Research & Innovation Centre, King Saud Medical City, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Dr Rick Brennan, the WHO Regional Emergency Director for the WHO EMRO, Egypt; and Dr Abdul Ghaffar, Executive Director, Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, Switzerland.

This special issue will look at comprehensive accounting of the response efforts made by the countries and the EMR as a whole, including pre-disaster assessment of the state of preparation, pandemic response for COVID-19 and preparedness for similar high impact respiratory pathogens in the Region and defining a way forward for future events.

For the last several decades, numerous reports have warned of the high likelihood of a new strain of influenza of unknown severity to spread from animals to humans and create a pandemic. In 2019, two reports, one issued by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) entitled “a world at risk” and another by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Preparedness on High-Impact Respiratory Pathogen Pandemic, warned about a very real threat of pandemic due to a high impact respiratory pathogen.

Nevertheless, epidemic and pandemic preparedness remained largely a neglected public health agenda. Since the first report of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China in December 2019, the coronavirus pandemic has engulfed the nations of the world, damaging the economic and social fabric of every society. Amid this pandemic, another report by the GPMB further recounts a very weak status of the global COVID-19 pandemic response and issues a stark warning of next possible pandemic.

The WHO EMR is home to nearly 700 million people across 22 diverse countries and territories spread over South and West Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. As of 3 May 2021, there have been 9,017,147 cases, including 180,906 death of COVID-19 in the Region compared with 152,387,917 cases and 3,195,624 deaths globally. Earlier, the Region also witnessed two other novel coronavirus outbreaks, SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, as well as the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

Previous large scale disease outbreaks and pandemics have provided several lessons. The WHO EMRO and other organizations, together with governments, have worked together to deliver solutions to system issues and inadequate capacities to deal with respiratory pathogen caused disease outbreaks and pandemics in the Region. In 2019, the WHO EMRO established the Incident Management Support Team (IMST) structure, a matrix team of experts to prioritize effective response efforts on COVID-19 pandemic.

An appraisal of the immediate collective response in the Region to COVID-19 pandemic and status of preparedness is warranted to learn from the past mistakes, slip-ups and overlooked opportunities to avoid repeating the same in case of future respiratory pathogen pandemics.

Therefore, papers submitted to this special issue should consist of preparedness and response aspects pertaining to COVID-19 and high impact respiratory pathogens in the EMR, addressing but not limited to: risk assessments, health system readiness, leadership, public trust in COVID-19 response, and more.

Submissions (original research articles, case studies, qualitative research, evaluation studies, evidence synthesis and reviews etc.) are particularly encouraged to deliberate over areas such as international coordination and support; scaling up country preparedness and response; accelerating priority research and innovation; policy engagement and expert support; strengthening points of entry and testing; protecting frontline health workers; mental health, psychological and behavioural response; and defending the integrity of science and public health agencies etc.  within the overall scope of high impact respiratory pathogens (e.g., SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, H1N1) in the Region.

At this moment, we are soliciting abstracts (1-2 paragraphs, maximum 500 words) of potential submissions. Please submit your abstracts to  The deadline for the receipt of abstracts will be 10 June 2021. Potential authors, after a careful review of submitted abstracts, will be invited to submit a full article.

All submissions will be subject to peer-review process and must adhere to BMJ Global Health guidelines. Please note that no publications fees will be charged from the authors for the articles accepted for final publication. The issue is expected to be published by end of 2021. In case of any queries, please contact the team at


About the authors: Abdinasir Abubakar, Arash Rashidian and Wasiq Khan ( affiliated with the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

Conflict of interest: None

Handling editor: Seye Abimbola

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