Extraordinary heroes of disease elimination named as finalists for REACH Awards

ABU DHABI, A group of 15 frontline health workers and innovators working towards disease elimination were today named finalists for the 2019 Recognising Excellence around Champions of Health, REACH, Awards.

The biennial REACH Awards celebrate frontline health workers who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership, courage and commitment in the field of disease elimination. The Awards were established in 2017 by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, reflecting his belief that no one should suffer from preventable disease and that those who are driven to help others deserve both our gratitude and recognition.

Over 600 nominations were received from over 80 countries. The finalists cover a broad area of global health work, including preventing the spread of polio and Ebola, eradicating onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness and other neglected tropical diseases, improving women’s health, raising awareness and resources for malaria and tuberculosis, and evolving healthcare systems in their local communities.

The 2019 REACH Awards are being judged by a previously announced panel of prominent leaders across global health disciplines. Additionally, Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and former Administrator of UNDP; and Bobby Shriver, Activist, Attorney, Producer; have now also joined the panel of judges.

Helen Clark said, “Frontline health workers have a critical role to play in society, including in dangerous situations where they put their own health and even their lives at risk for the good of others. Recognising and rewarding this work is essential. I agreed to be a judge for the REACH Awards to help shine a light on the incredible work that these unsung heroes do day in, day out.”

The finalists of the 2019 REACH Awards are: Unsung Hero Award: honours an extraordinary individual who has played a transformative, frontline role in the field of disease elimination, but has been under-recognised for their efforts.

– Boakye Adwini Boatin – Boakye was nominated by McGill University for his work in onchocerciasis elimination in West Africa. Boakye led the WHO’s Onchocerciasis Control Programme working in remote areas and conflict zones, curing nearly one million individuals.

– Hollman Alfonso Miller Hurtado – Hollman was nominated by PAHO for his work in NTD elimination in the Amazon. As a health secretary for the Vaupes province, he ensured a zero mortality rate from malaria and dengue fever.

– Rahane Lawal – Rahane was nominated by UNICEF for her bravery at the frontlines of polio eradication in Nigeria. Rahane led efforts to eradicate polio from her community despite being kidnapped for 11 days and after several family members were murdered.

– Harriet Mutaawe – Harriet was nominated by Living Goods for her community health work, particularly among children under five. Harriet is the primary source of health education, diagnosis and treatment in her remote village in Uganda.

– Mohamed Shire – Mohamed was nominated by WHO Somalia for his work on polio and smallpox eradication in the country – the final resting place for smallpox in the world.

Game Changing Innovator Award: recognises an individual who has developed and implemented a creative technology or practice in support of disease elimination, acknowledging the need to constantly innovate in the field.

– Dr. Emily Gower Emily was nominated by Christian Blind Mission for her innovations in the treatment of trachoma. Emily developed HEAD START a surgical stimulator that is the training standard for trichiasis surgeons.

– Dr. Richard Kojan Richard was nominated by the ELMA Philanthropies for his innovative product that aids in the treatment of Ebola patients. Richard created a portable bio-secure emergency care unit that helped improve the treatment of Ebola in remote areas.

– Dr. Victor Kande Betu Kumesu Victor was nominated by Medecins Sans Frontieres Access Campaign for his contribution to finding a revolutionary cure to sleeping sickness. He has led clinical trials for the first oral-only drug for sleeping sickness that is expected to accelerate elimination of the disease in Sub-Saharan Africa.

– Dr. Misaki Wayengera Misaki was nominated by Case Western Reserve University for his innovations in testing methods for hemorrhagic fever viruses. Misaki created a groundbreaking cheap paper strip test to rapidly detect viruses that can easily be used in remote environments.

– Dr. Elizabeth A. Winzeler Elizabeth was nominated by Harvard University for her innovative technology to accelerate the development of new malaria treatments. Her research is the foundation of a new pipeline for malaria drugs that could change how the disease is treated.

Rising Champion Award: recognises an individual who is championing a cause related to disease elimination, acknowledging the significant impact that can be made through advocacy from shifting attitudes around disease and treatment to working with governments to evolve policies.

– Dr. Fatimah Saeed Alhamlan Fatimah was nominated by King Abdulaziz University for placing HPV and women’s health on the national agenda in Saudi Arabia. Fatimah leads a national transformation project to eradicate cervical cancer in Saudi Arabia by 2050.

– Rose Mary Nakame Rose was nominated by the County Government of Kericho for her work in improving health systems in Uganda. Rose was inspired to improve health systems from an early age after battling a life-threatening brain tumor. Her approach leverages a powerful and traditional method of communication: storytelling.

– Olivia Ngou Olivia was nominated by Malaria No More for her work raising government funds for malaria. Olivia’s advocacy helped influence Cameroon to increase funding for malaria by more than 400%.

– Enock Omondi Enock was nominated by AMREF Health Africa for his work raising awareness and resources for HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. Enock has created a youth parliament initiative in Kenya to advocate for increased commitment to health systems.

– Saurabh Dinesh Rane Saurabh was nominated by the McGill University International TB Center for his advocacy and support for TB patients. Saurabh is an XDR-TB survivor and activist who helps TB patients fight for their rights in India and worldwide.

The full biographies of the finalists, and the additional biographies that complete the REACH Awards 50 list can be found on the Reaching the Last Mile website.

In addition, an individual who has dedicated his or her career to disease elimination will be honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2017, the Lifetime Achievement Award went to Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States and Founder of the Carter Centre, for the Carter Centre’s role at the forefront of combatting the Guinea worm disease.

Source: Emirates News Agency