David Nabarro

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David Nabarro in 2016

Dr. David Nabarro (born 26 August 1949) is a medical doctor who has been tapped to lead the United Nations' response to the massive cholera epidemic in Haiti that was brought to the country by UN peacekeeping troops in October 2010.[1] Dr. Nabarro had previously organized the United Nations' response to Ebola in 2014.[2]


Born in London in 1949, Nabarro is the son of the late Sir John David Nunes Nabarro (formerly consultant endocrinologist at University College and Middlesex Hospitals, London). He attended Oundle School leaving in the summer of 1966. In a gap year between school and university, Nabarro was a Community Service Volunteer. He spent a year as the Organiser of Youth Action, York. A BBC television documentary was made about his volunteer work.

Nabarro studied at Oxford and London Universities and qualified as a physician in 1973.


Nabarro became a qualified physician in the UK in 1973. For a short time he worked in the UK's National Health Service. From 1976 to 1978, Nabarro worked as District Child Health Officer in Dhankuta District, Nepal. Later, he moved to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and in 1982, he became Regional Manager for the Save the Children Fund in South Asia, based in the region. In 1985 he joined the Liverpool School of Medicine as Senior Lecturer in International Community Health. He moved to the now Department for International Development as a Strategic Adviser for Health and Population in East Africa, based in Nairobi in 1989.

Having had a good experience with helping third world countries in the field of medical care, Nabarro later took up the post of Chief Health and Population Adviser, at the ODA London Office in 1990, and moved on to become Director of Human Development (as well as Chief Health Adviser), as ODA was transformed into the Department for International Development in 1997.

World Health Organization, 1999–2005[edit]

Nabarro joined WHO in January 1999, as Project Manager, Roll Back Malaria, then moved to the Office of the Director-General, as Executive Director, from March 2000. In this capacity, he worked with Director General Gro Harlem Brundtland for two years on a variety of issues including the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, Health Systems Assessments and the creation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Nabarro transferred to the Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments cluster in 2003 and was appointed Representative of the Director-General for Health Action in Crises in July 2003. Since then he has been responsible for taking forward efforts to improve WHO's performance in crisis settings, with an emphasis on preparedness, response and recovery.

Nabarro was stationed in the Canal Hotel.[3] in Baghdad, Iraq, when it was bombed on the afternoon of 19 August 2003. The blast targeted the United Nations, which had used the hotel as its headquarters in Iraq since 1991.

He coordinated support for health aspects of crisis response operations in Darfur, Sudan, and in countries affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and Tsunami.

Senior Coordinator for Avian and Pandemic Influenza, 2005–2014[edit]

In September 2005, Nabarro was seconded from WHO and appointed Senior United Nations System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza by Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan to ensure that the United Nations system makes an effective and coordinated contribution to the global effort to control the epidemic of avian influenza (or “bird flu”). He held this role at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 2005 until 2014.

In 2007, Nabarro was widely considered the front-runner to head the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria;[4] instead, the role eventually went to Michel Kazatchkine.

High-Level Task Force on Global Food Security (HLTF), 2009–2014[edit]

In January 2009, Nabarro was given the responsibility of coordinating the United Nations system’s High-Level Task Force on Global Food Security (HLTF). The HLTF brought together 23 different organizations, funds, programs and other entities from within the United Nations family, as well as the Bretton Woods Institutions, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and tasked them with establishing a common strategy for addressing food and nutrition insecurity in a more sustainable, coordinated and comprehensive way. Nabarro left the HLTF coordinator position in 2014 and was succeeded by Giuseppe Fantozzi.

In October 2009 United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Nabarro as Special Representative on Food Security and Nutrition. As Special Representative, Nabarro’s role was to assist the Secretary-General as he encourages and supports country-led actions for food security and nutrition through comprehensive approaches, coordinated strategies, a strong role for multilateral agencies and increased international assistance.

In January 2012, Nabarro was appointed Coordinator of the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement (SUN). SUN brings together government officials, civil society, the United Nations, donors, businesses and researchers in a collective effort to improve nutrition.

Special Advisor on the SDGs, 2015–present[edit]

In December 2015, Nabarro was appointed Special Advisor on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.[5][6]

Also in 2015, World Health Organisation Director General Margaret Chan appointed Nabarro as chairman of the Advisory Group on Reform of WHO’s Work in Outbreaks and Emergencies with Health and Humanitarian Consequences.[7]

Cholera and Ebola work[edit]

At least twice—with the ongoing cholera epidemic in Haiti and the 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic in West Africa - Nabarro has been tapped by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to lead the institution's responses to health crises after the UN and the international community had been faulted for delayed and inadequate action.

In August 2014, Nabarro was designated as Senior United Nations System Coordinator for Ebola Virus Disease,[8] with the responsibility for ensuring that the United Nations system makes an effective and coordinated contribution to the global effort to control the outbreak of Ebola. The epidemic is believed to have begun in December 2013 with the death of a 2-year-old boy in a remote area of Guinea, but was not recognized until March 2014. For several months the epidemic spread out of control, something public health experts on the ground, such as Medecins Sans Frontières, claimed was due to a deeply flawed and delayed response by health and government officials.[9]

In an interview later in 2015, after the Ebola epidemic had largely been brought under control, Nabarro said that when he started working on Ebola in 2014 "I was aware that we were in the middle of a disease outbreak of enormous proportions. The number of people getting sick was doubling every week. Facilities were completely overloaded. Communities were in a state of despair." He added that the international community had learned important lessons from the epidemic. "The world is going to be different as a result of this Ebola outbreak, much more confident, much more assured, and much, much more capable to ensure the wellbeing of its citizens." [10]

In late August 2016, Nabarro was tapped to lead the UN's response to the cholera epidemic its peacekeepers sparked in Haiti in October 2010 when untreated infected sewage from a UN base was dumped in the country's main river system. As of August 2016, at least 10,000 people have died and more than 800,000 have been sickened in the ongoing epidemic. Nabarro's appointment came on the heels of the UN Secretary-General's office—after years of pressure from Haitian and international human rights groups—admitting that the institution had "played a role" in the initial outbreak. A spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in August 2016 "over the past year the UN has become convinced that it needs to do much more regarding its own involvement in the initial outbreak and the suffering of those affected by cholera." [11]

Candidate for WHO Director General, 2016–present[edit]

In September 2016, Nabarro was one of six candidates who were put forward to succeed WHO Director General Margaret Chan.[12]

Other activities[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Nabarro has three older children with his former partner, Oxfordshire GP Susanna Belle Graham-Jones: Thomas (Tom) Adam Nabarro (1984), Oliver Mark Nabarro (1986) and Polly Frances Graham-Jones Nabarro (1988). David married Gillian Holmes in 2002, in Coppet, near Geneva, and they have two children: Josephine Mari Holmes Nabarro (1997) and Lucas John Nabarro (2000).


  1. ^ Katz, Jonathan (August 17, 2016). The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/18/world/americas/united-nations-haiti-cholera.html?_r=0. Retrieved 30 August 2016.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ Chambers, Ray (November 26, 2014). "In Conversation: David Nabarro, the Man on the Front Line of the Ebola Crisis". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 30 August 2016. 
  3. ^ "http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2003/statment_nabarro/en/index.html".  External link in |title= (help)
  4. ^ Andrew Jack (2007), Nabarro leads UN Global Fund race Financial Times.
  5. ^ "Ban appoints senior officials for key roles". United Nations News Centre. December 3, 2015. Retrieved 1 September 2016. 
  6. ^ Secretary-General Appoints David Nabarro of United Kingdom Special Adviser on 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development United Nations, press release of 3 December 2015.
  7. ^ Members of the Advisory Group on Reform of WHO’s Work in Outbreaks and Emergencies with Health and Humanitarian Consequences World Health Organization.
  8. ^ Nick Cumming-Bruce (September 16, 2014), U.N. Sees Need for $1 Billion to Fight Ebola New York Times.
  9. ^ Boseley, Sarah (September 30, 2015). "Ebola is all but over, but the postmortem is just getting started". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 September 2016. 
  10. ^ "Ebola Then and Now -- David Nabarro". www.who.int. WHO (World Health Organization). Retrieved 1 September 2016. 
  11. ^ Katz, Jonathan (August 17, 2016). "UN Admits Role in Cholera Epidemic in Haiti". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 September 2016. 
  12. ^ Kate Kelland (September 23, 2016), A fighter for global health: Who will be next to lead the WHO? Reuters.
  13. ^ Board of Directors Medicines for Malaria Venture (MVV).