Pakistan’s Edhi Foundation wins humanity award in Bahrain

king-hamad-presenting-the-award-to-jameelaA welfare foundation in Pakistan with a wide array of welfare services including mortuaries, orphanages, old age homes, and shelter homes for women has been named as the winner of the 2019 Isa Award for Service to Humanity. The prestigious biennial award, named after Bahrain’s late Amir Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, this year went to the Edhi Foundation. The decision was made following thorough field research by the award jury and a focus on the work mechanisms and achievements accomplished by the foundation, the jury said in the Bahraini capital Manama.

Founded by Pakistani philanthropist and humanitarian worker Abdul Sattar Edhi in 1951, the Edhi Foundation provides 24-hour emergency assistance across Pakistan and abroad. Its services include shelter for the destitute, free hospitals and medical care, drug rehabilitation services, and national and international relief efforts. According to his biography, Edhi was born on February 28, 1928, in Bantva in India’s Gujarat. He migrated to Pakistan after the 1947 partition and settled in Karachi. The death of his mother reportedly paralyzed and suffering from grave health issues, following failure to give her the necessary healthcare on time deeply affected him and marked a decisive turning point that spurred him onto philanthropy. In his words, at the start of his work, Edhi “begged for donations” and “people gave”. This allowed him to convert a tiny room into a medical dispensary.  He also bought an ambulance that he himself drove around. His welfare network reached across the country and his services were acknowledged internationally, earning him several awards and honors. In 2005, the foundation raised $100,000 in aid relief for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the U.S.

The Guinness Book of world records mentioned him for running the largest fleet of ambulances, offering help to poor communities failed by inadequate public health and welfare services. When he died on July 8, 2016 in Karachi of renal failure, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that Edhi was “the real manifestation of love for those who are socially vulnerable, impoverished, helpless and poor. We have lost a great servant of humanity.”

In Bahrain, the foundation will receive a one million US dollar cash prize, a pure gold medal and a high-level certificate of appreciation to be presented during a royal ceremony in November. The award was named after Shaikh Isa to commemorate his outstanding dedication to humanitarian causes and his remarkable commitment to a world of tolerance and solidarity, award officials said.

Established in 2009 by King Hamad, the award recognizes “exceptional people and organizations and celebrates their selfless and tireless efforts to create a better world for future generations.” “There are those who make remarkable contributions to improve the conditions of others. These honorable individuals not only see pain, strife and hardships in this difficult world, but they also strive to bring beauty where there is none and hope where there is despair.” The Isa Award is granted every two years to either individuals or organizations who have been selected through a process by an expert panel of jurists.

The award, the first of its kind Arab, attracts nominees from all over the world and is supervised by a jury comprising experts from various continents. It covers 11 categories including disaster prevention and relief, education, and human tolerance. In 2013, Jemilah Mahmoud, the founder of the Malaysian Medical Relief Society (MERCY Malaysia), won the first Isa Award for her efforts in the fields of disaster prevention and relief, education, community service, environmental protection, climate change, and poverty alleviation. Her achievements included the establishment of a maternity and health center for women in Darfur, Sudan, in 2004 that is now run by a local team.

Under her leadership, MERCY Malaysia also rebuilt 13 health centers in cooperation with the Health Ministry in Myanmar, after Cyclone Nargis hit that country in 2008. Following the tsunami disaster in December 2004 and the destructive earthquake that ensued in March 2005, she also helped the people of Banda Aceh, one of the poorest communities in Indonesia. Jemilah drew up a plan to provide the necessary health care to the affected people, helped rebuild two health centers and renovated the island’s Gunung Sitoli Hospital. Dr Achyuta Samanta, the founder of Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences and Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology in India, won the second award in 2015. The Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology was launched with an initial investment of just Rs5,000. Dr Samanta’s aim was to ensure that poverty would never pose a hindrance to anyone’s education. The Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences today caters to 25,000 children from the underprivileged tribal community.

In 2017, the Egyptian Children’s Cancer Hospital, was announced as the winner of the Isa Award for Service to Humanity. “The Egyptian hospital has been selected for its humanitarian services and numerous achievements in treating children with cancer as well as for its free services in Egypt and Arab countries,” the jury said.

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