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King Hamad presents Eisa award for service to humanity

Malaysian activist Jemilah Mahmoud lauded for exceptional contributions

Gulf News

Manama: King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa on Sunday presented the Eisa Award for Service to Humanity to Malaysia’s Dr Jemilah Mahmoud, praising her humanitarian role and her outstanding dedication.

Dr Mahmoud, founder of the Malaysian Medical Relief Society (MERCY Malaysia), has won the Award for her efforts in disaster prevention and relief, education, community service, environment protection, climate change, and poverty alleviation.

She was selected as the laureate of the first edition of the Award thanks to her continuous humanitarian work, which has included the establishment of a maternity and health centre for women in Darfur, Sudan, in 2004.

Under her leadership, MERCY Malaysia rebuilt 13 health centres in cooperation with the Health Ministry in Myanmar, after Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

Following the tsunami disaster in December 2004 and the destructive earthquake that ensued in March 2005, Dr Mahmoud helped the people of Banda Aceh, one of the poorest communities in Indonesia. She drew up a plan to provide the necessary health care, helped rebuild two health centres, and renovated the island’s Gunung Sitoli Hospital.

Ali Abdullah Khalifa, the Award’s Secretary General, said that the honouring was “the culmination of two years of continuous work that included intensive coordination among the Award’s General Secretariat, the Nomination Committee, the jury, and other parties involved in humanitarian activities throughout the world”.

Established in 2009, the Eisa Award honours individuals and organisations around the globe that have provided outstanding services to humanity regardless of their race, religion, culture, beliefs, or locations.

The award covers 11 categories including disaster prevention and relief, education and human tolerance. The laureate of the biennial award receives a gold medal and a $1 million (Dh3.67 million) cash award. The award is the first of its kind in the Middle East in the field of honouring service to humanity.

Dr Mahmoud’s humanitarian career was launched in 1999, when after watching the distressing conflict in Kosovo on the TV news, she felt like she could no longer sit on the sidelines.

Gathering several like-minded friends, she established the Malaysian Medical Relief Society in June that year. The Society is currently known as MERCY Malaysia.

Modelled after Medecins San Frontieres, MERCY Malaysia’s first mission was to Kosovo. Using their personal funds, Dr Mahmoud and four other volunteers set forth on a life-changing journey.

MERCY Malaysia is one of a handful of international NGOs based in the global South. Its focus is on providing medical relief, sustainable health-related development and risk-reduction activities for vulnerable communities in both crisis and non-crisis situations.

In the following years, Dr Mahmoud’s dedication to humanitarian service attracted world attention and drew people from all walks of life. Many Malaysians and some non-Malaysians joined in. The organisation is committed to serving those in need, irrespective of race, religion, culture or boundary. MERCY Malaysia has sent teams on humanitarian missions to disaster-stricken areas across the globe, including Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Today, MERCY Malaysia is 500 members strong with a volunteer base of about 5,000.