The WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has announced six awards yesterday to recognize outstanding contributions to advancing global health, demonstrated leadership and commitment to regional health issues. Dr Tedros himself decides on the awardees for the World Health Organization Director-General’s Global Health Leaders Awards.
The ceremony for the awards, which were established in 2019, was part of the live-streamed high-level opening session of the 75th World Health Assembly.
“At a time when the world is facing an unprecedented convergence of inequity, conflict, food insecurity, the climate crisis and a pandemic, this award recognises those who have made an outstanding contribution to protecting and promoting health around the world,” said Dr Tedros. “These awardees embody lifelong dedication, relentless advocacy, a commitment to equity, and selfless service of humanity.”
Honorees of the Global Health Leaders Awards
Dr Paul Farmer
Dr Farmer, who passed away in his sleep in February 2022 in Rwanda, was Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Partners in Health. He was co-founder and chief strategist of Partners In Health, an international non-governmental organization established in 1987 to provide direct health care services, research and advocacy for those who are sick and living in poverty.
Dr Farmer has written extensively on health, human rights, and the consequences of social inequality. Wingdie “Didi” Bertrand, co-founder and President of Women and Girls Initiative, accepted the award on behalf of her late husband.
Dr Ahmed Hankir
A British-Lebanese psychiatrist, Dr Ahmed Hankir is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Mental Health Research in association with Cambridge University and Academic Clinical Fellow in Psychiatry at the King’s College London in the United Kingdom. He also works in frontline psychiatry for the NHS at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and serves as Visiting Professor of Academic Psychiatry at the Carrick Institute for Graduate Studies in Cape Canaveral, in the United States of America.
While in medical school in the UK, he developed a debilitating episode of psychological distress, triggered by the traumatic events when living in Lebanon. He is the author of The Wounded Healer, an anti-stigma program that blends the power of the performing arts and storytelling with psychiatry, which has been integrated into the medical school curriculum of four UK universities. He is also known for his work on Muslim mental health, islamophobia and violent extremism.
Ms Ludmila Sofia Oliveira Varela
A youth sports advocate from Cabo Verde and player of the Cabo Verde national volleyball team, Ms Oliviera Varela’s work to facilitate access to sports for all provides a healthy alternative to risky behaviours among young people and tackles the growing threat of non-communicable diseases. She holds weekly training sessions for youths in Praia City.
In 2021 she was one of the finalists of the UNESCO global competition on the “Power of Sport in a time of crisis” and she has received awards in several sports competitions in the African Region.
Polio workers in Afghanistan
Also honoured were eight volunteer polio workers who were shot and killed by armed gunmen in Takhar and Kunduz provinces in Afghanistan on 24 February 2022. Four of these polio workers were women. The eight volunteers were reaching thousands of children through house-to-house campaigns in north-eastern Afghanistan.
Their work was crucial in a country where wild poliovirus type 1 is still circulating. Their names were Mr Mohamamd Zubair Khalazai, Mr Najibullah Kosha, Mr Shadab Yosufi, Mr Shareefullah Hemati, Mrs Haseeba Omari, Ms Khadija Attaee, Ms Munira Hakimi and Ms Robina Yosufi and her brother Shadab.
ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist Workers)
ASHA (which means hope in Hindi) are the more than 1 million female volunteers in India, honoured for their crucial role in linking the community with the health system to ensure those living in rural poverty can access primary health care services shown throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
ASHAs worked to provide maternal care and immunization for children against vaccine-preventable diseases; community health care; treatment for hypertension and tuberculosis; and core areas of health promotion for nutrition, sanitation, and healthy living.
Mr Yōhei Sasakawa
Mr Yōhei Sasakawa is the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, and Japan’s Ambassador for the Human Rights of People Affected by leprosy. For more than 40 years, he has continued his global fight against leprosy and its stigma and social discrimination.
As chairman of The Nippon Foundation, Japan’s largest charitable foundation, Mr Sasakawa has been a pioneer in guiding public-interest activities by the private sector in modern Japan.