A member of the medical staff comforts a patient infected by the novel coronavirus at the COVID-19 division at the ASST Papa Giovanni XXIII hospital in Bergamo, Italy, on April 3, 2020.

As the world grows ever more connected, it is increasingly clear how quickly the problems of one country can ripple across borders and affect the entire world.

This phenomenon plays out frequently. One country’s greenhouse gas emissions can accelerate the pace of climate change, which threatens the entire planet. Another country’s economic collapse can send shockwaves throughout global financial markets. And in a world where billions of people are just a click away, extremist ideologies can inspire acts of violence halfway around the world.

Whether we like it or not, countries today cannot simply pull up the drawbridges and completely isolate themselves from certain issues. This is especially true when it comes to global health, as evidenced by COVID-19—the respiratory disease caused by a novel kind of coronavirus that has caused unprecedented upheaval across health systems and economies since late 2019.  

The ongoing pandemic represents a clarion wakeup call for those who believe that what happens across the world is not relevant to them—that somehow today’s most pressing issues recognize borders. 

COVID-19 started locally, but it quickly spread globally—reaching nearly every country in the world and affecting virtually every professional industry. The virus has exacerbated food insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa, upended oil markets in the Middle East, and empowered authoritarians in Central Asia. As governments and international institutions race to react, the world has gotten a crash course on what happens when a global problem meets local politics. 

The news is developing fast. It may even feel like the world has never changed so dramatically before. And that’s in large part because these are truly unprecedented challenges. We are all making our way through uncharted waters.

But though these challenges are vast and varied, they need not be completely foreign. To make sense of COVID-19 and the world today, we encourage you to explore World101, which breaks down today’s most important, enduring issues and explains why they matter. In order to understand today’s crisis, it’s imperative to first have a fundamental understanding of how the world works. Now more than ever, everyone needs to be informed—to invest in the future and to make a difference.

COVID-19 is changing the world in so many ways. Understand how by exploring World101.