Lord Ara Darzi: “In any form of crisis, the first to go is health”

Lord Ara Darzi: “In any form of crisis, the first to go is health”

Professor Ara Darzi is Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London. He also holds the Paul Hamlyn Chair of Surgery at Imperial College London and the Institute of Cancer Research, and is Executive Chair of the World Innovation Summit for Health in Qatar. He is a Consultant Surgeon at Imperial College Hospital NHS Trust and the Royal Marsden NHS Trust.

What are the biggest humanitarian challenges we face today?

There are many challenges. Sadly, I can't tell you what the biggest one is but in my view, all of them are really huge challenges to humanity as a whole. Just look at the challenge of global security, the challenge of terrorism, the challenge of radicalization, the challenge of climate change and, I think, more importantly, the challenge of those who don't understand or want to believe that climate change is having this huge detrimental impact on the globe. We also have the challenge of wars and conflicts. We've seen examples of that in recent times such as Yemen and other parts of the world. So, there are significant challenges out there despite our advancement, our technological maturity, our educational and health improvements.

One of the consequences of some of those challenges is refugee crisis. As a policy maker, as part of the government and as a descendant of a refugee family, how do you see the solution of this crisis? What is the role of governments and institutions and what is the role of global community?

We have been witnessing refugee crises for centuries, but we wouldn't expect to see that in 2017. It's heartbreaking that in this day and age and our progression as humanity we're still seeing these serious conflicts, which are based on beliefs or whatever it happens to be, leading to the crises all over the world.

How do we cope with these things? We need countries to come together and really address some of the major challenges the refugees are facing. Ultimately, the most important thing is to provide them with shelter, to provide them with health, education, the security that they need. 

I think Aurora Prize has done a remarkable thing in really bringing that on the table. What is humanitarian role at a national level, individual level, society level? That awareness of what is happening out there and believing that whatever small thing you do will have an impact is extremely worthwhile.

How does this crisis impact on healthcare globally?

Any type of refugee crisis will have a series health impact. Just look at the Yemen war. The prevalence of cholera, which is completely avoidable disease, is a good example. In any form of crisis, the first to go is health. These are basic health needs, nothing more, nothing less. 

2017 Aurora Humanitarian Index reveals that inaction prevails, and people do not tend to act on behalf of others, to save or help others. How do you think we can inspire people to take action?

We have seen this sad attribute of the delay between the action from a period of inaction even in famine and starvation in Africa back to 30 years ago. I think Aurora will bring this to the table, increase the awareness of this and keep the pressure but also make the world aware of who is out there acting and how we should follow their good example. 

Why do you think the Aurora is important globally and what's its importance from the Armenian point of view?

Aurora is absolutely a fantastic idea and in fact it is the brainchild of an Armenian. So, you can very easily link the Aurora's contribution globally to how it goes back to Armenia and Armenian because Armenia has been through this journey in the past. 

Aurora, the way it’s structured, really recognizes these humanitarian actions not at individual level but also at a group level, at a continent level, and that awareness is extremely important. To build the confidence in people, even the tiniest bit you could do, it could have a big, big impact. There are some amazing heroes who became laureates, and I love heroes.

I love people who take all the risk, drop everything just to support another member of mankind. And these people are being recognized through the Aurora Prize where historically probably they wouldn’t be recognized. I don’t think these people do it for their recognition either. They do it because they have that passion that ignites them to do that. I think what Aurora Prize could do or at least the committee could do is we could transfect that passion in every human being.