Pamela Zeinoun was on duty at St. George’s Hospital Academic Medical Center when an explosion ripped through Beirut in August 2020, reducing the hospital and buildings in the neighborhood to rubble.

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

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

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

The special event held at Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion celebrated “unsung” everyday acts and heroic gestures and featured several frontline workers’ first accounts of the Covid-19 pandemic and the sacrifices that they agreed to save lives.

Speaking at the event, Dr Maha Barakat, Director General of the UAE Frontline Heroes Office, said history is full of examples of how the selfless work of frontline workers saved millions of lives.

“If smallpox had not been eradicated, remember it was all the efforts of frontline workers, 40 million people would have died…if we hadn’t made every effort to try to control and d eliminate malaria, we would have (had) more than 7.6 million people – mostly children – died in the past decade. All of that was avoided,” Barakat said.

“5.6 million people have died from Covid-19 in the past two years. Imagine if we didn’t have frontline workers supporting in hospitals, scaling up health systems and administering the nearly 10 billion doses of Covid vaccine. Imagine what this sinister figure would have been like.

Dr Ujala Nayyar of the World Health Organization (WHO), part of the PEI (Polio Eradication Initiative) in Punjab, Pakistan, spoke about the role of women working on the front lines to distribute routine vaccines in resource-limited areas. She spoke of 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 a polio-free year. So if we can do that, we can also continue for the next five years. I see eradication after the next five years for sure,” Nayyar said.

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