ABU DHABI,15th November 2017 (WAM) - Today, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, recognised the first-ever recipients of the Mohamed bin Zayed Global Health Awards – Recognising Excellence around Champions of Health (REACH), a global awards program aimed at recognizing individuals who have made outstanding contributions toward eliminating infectious diseases.
The first edition of the awards were launched at a global health forum in Abu Dhabi titled Reaching the Last Mile: Mobilizing Together to Eliminate Infectious Diseases, to honor global health leaders and those who have been instrumental in eradicating Guinea worm disease, a crippling parasitic disease that incapacitates people for extended periods of time.
The UAE leadership has contributed to efforts to eradicate the disease for the past 30 years. Thanks to global efforts, its incidence has fallen from a peak of approximately 3.5 million in 21 countries in Africa and Asia in 1986, to around 25 cases so far in 2017.
The ceremony was attended by Idriss Deby, President of Chad; Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, President of Mali; H.H Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Council; Jim Young Kim, President, World Bank Group; Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organisation; Bill Gates, Co-chair & Trustee, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; H.H. Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior; H.H Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chief of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's Court; H.H. Sheikh Khalid bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board of Zayed Higher Organisation for Humanitarian Care & Special Needs; Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance; Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Member of Abu Dhabi Executive Council; Abdul Rahman Mohammad Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention; Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation; Dr. Maha Taysir Barakat,; and a number of health ministers from different countries.
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed expressed his gratitude for the interaction among countries, organisations and individuals during the global health forum held in Abu Dhabi. "Our message is that we are united in our goal to put these infectious diseases behind us," he said.
His Highness added "There are many people around the world who are driven to help others by pure conscience. These people deserve our respect, appreciation and honor. The UAE, under the leadership of His highness Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is one of the leading countries focused on long-initiatives that support people in need, in terms of health, education and living. It makes us happier when others are happy, and this firms our long-term approach."
His Highness stressed that of all the various methods of giving, contributions to health and saving humans from debilitating diseases are the most rewarding because their impact exceeds expectations: "Many inspirational examples of giving have affected people’s lives and left a clear imprint on humanity as a whole. Most notably, my dear friend Bill Gates, who warrants extensive gratitude and appreciation for his philanthropic efforts, deserves the UAE’s Order of Federation. I thank him for joining the Reaching the Last Mile Fund, which aims to eliminate river blindness and elephantiasis. Together we can save the world from these preventable diseases."
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan personally awarded REACH Awards to: President Jimmy Carter: The Former US President, 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner and Founder of The Carter Center was awarded the REACH Lifetime Achievement Award for his longtime, vocal advocacy for disease eradication efforts, particularly Guinea worm disease. His son, Chip Carter, accepted the award on his behalf.
Abdullah Khalifa Al Ghafli: the Director of the United Arab Emirates Pakistan Assistance Program, was awarded the Special Achievement Award for his work in forging new partnerships to drive progress on infectious diseases.
Dr. Nabil Aziz Awad Alla: A Former National Program Coordinator for Guinea worm disease eradication in Sudan’s Federal Ministry of Health received the REACH Courage Award for going above and beyond to push forward progress against Guinea worm disease, at times at great personal risk.
Dr. Adamu Keana Sallau: A Director for Integrated Health Programs in the Imo/Abia States at The Carter Center in Nigeria, received the REACH Last Mile Award for directly contributing to reaching elimination of Guinea worm disease in Nigeria.
Regina Lotubai Lomare Lochilangole: A Social Mobilizer in South Sudan’s Federal Ministry of Health received the REACH Unsung Hero Award for making significant contributions to ending Guinea worm disease in her community.
Daniel Madit Kuol Madut: A Senior Program Officer in South Sudan’s Federal Ministry of Health received the REACH Unsung Hero Award for making significant contributions to ending Guinea worm disease in his community.
Former US President and Founder of The Carter Center, Jimmy Carter, winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award, commented: "On behalf of The Carter Center and its partners, I am honored to accept the REACH award, alongside outstanding heroes in the campaign to eradicate Guinea worm disease, whose efforts to eliminate infectious disease in marginalized, vulnerable communities create opportunities for people to transform their lives and reach their full potential."
Abdullah Khalifa Al Ghafli, the winner of the Special Achievement Award commented: "Disease eradication saves millions of lives and partnership is key to this. I am proud to support the His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan’s global partnerships with governments, and international development and philanthropic organizations, which are focused on using the UAE’s unique position to contribute to the global fight against disease."
Dr. Nabil Aziz Awad Alla, the winner of the REACH Courage Award, commented: "My work in Guinea worm disease eradication has taken me from war zones to remote villages. However, one thing remained constant throughout every tricky situation I found myself in – and that is hope. I am driven by the hope that I see in both sufferers and health workers, and I am honoured to be recognized on behalf of the community and the amazing individuals fighting to end Guinea worm disease."
Dr. Adamu Keana Sallau, the winner of the REACH Last Mile Award, commented: "Guinea worm eradication is highly complex because the disease affects some of the most marginalized communities in Africa where remote villages and traditional beliefs create challenges for health workers. I am proud to be a part of the fight to help eliminate Guinea worm disease from my country, prevent millions of my people from needless suffering, and give more people a chance at a healthy life."
Regina Lotubai Lomare Lochilangole, winner of the REACH Unsung Hero Award, commented: "I have seen firsthand the suffering caused by the disease and urge the world to continue supporting this important fight. We need people working at all levels – from community health workers to global advocates – to end this disease once and for all."
Daniel Madit Kuol Madut, winner of the REACH Unsung Hero Award, commented: "We are now closer than ever to eradicating Guinea worm disease. However, reaching the last mile is sometimes the hardest. We must redouble our efforts and work closely together – only then will we reach zero."
The REACH Awards build on the HOPE (Heroes of Polio Eradication) Awards, launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2015 to honor courageous individuals working to create a polio-free world. The HOPE Awards recognized five heroes working across health, education, research and advocacy.
The Reaching the Last Mile forum is focused on eradicating, eliminating, and controlling preventable deadly and debilitating diseases that hinder the health and economic prospects of the world’s poorest people.
At the forum, the Reaching Last Mile Fund, a US$ 100 million NTD Fund focused on supporting regional efforts to eliminate river blindness and lymphatic filariasis through innovation and collaboration, was launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the END Fund. Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, outlined plans for the UAE to develop a disease elimination institute in Abu Dhabi, led by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed.
The UAE leadership’s commitment to disease elimination began in 1990 through the late Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan, Founder of the UAE, and has since continued through a series of contributions from His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed. Since 2011, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed has personally committed US$250 million to global efforts to eliminate deadly and debilitating diseases.