Mohammed bin Zayed attends the
Mohammed bin Zayed attends the "Reaching the Last Mile" forum in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: WAM

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, recognised the winners of the 2019 Recognising Excellence around Champions of Health (REACH) Awards today at a ceremony held during the Reaching the Last Mile Forum in Abu Dhabi. Established by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the biennial Reach Award, REACH acknowledges those who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and commitment in the field of disease elimination. Awards were presented on stage by  Bill Gates, Co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed also attended part of the works of Last Mile Forum in Abu Dhabi, where global leaders affirmed their commitment to eradicate polio and pledged $2.6 billion as part of the first phase of the funding needed to implement the Global Polio Eradication Initiative's Polio Endgame Strategy 2019-2023.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed said, "For one billion people around the world the main source of care are frontline health workers, who are driven to help others despite facing sometimes insurmountable obstacles. Today we recognise these individuals for the perseverance, effort and innovation that is helping to ensure every person has the opportunity to live a healthy, dignified life. Their work lights the path for all of humanity."

More than one billion people around the world, especially in remote areas, lack access to healthcare due to weak health systems, and limited access to facilities and trained health workers. Frontline health workers play a critical role in reaching the most remote communities, often the last stronghold for preventable, infectious diseases.

The event was attended by Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior; Sheikh Khalid bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Office; His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan; and Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal.

This year's REACH Awards winners are:

Rahane Lawal, Unsung Hero Award (Nigeria) – Lawal was honored for bravery on the frontlines of polio eradication in Nigeria. Nominated by UNICEF, she has continued to lead efforts to eradicate polio from her community despite being kidnapped for 11 days and witnessing several family members being murdered.

Dr Richard Kojan, Game Changing Innovator Award (Democratic Republic of Congo) – Kojan was selected for his transformative innovation of the CUBE, a portable bio-secure emergency care unit which allows close monitoring of Ebola patients by doctors, as well as safe interaction between patients and their loved ones. Nominated by the ELMA Philanthropies, he has revolutionised how Ebola patients are treated out of medical isolation.

Olivia Ngou, Rising Champion Award (Cameroon) – Ngou was honored for co-founding and leading the Civil Society for Malaria Elimination (CS4ME), a global network of civil society organizations dedicated to ensuring that communities are at the center of efforts to eliminate malaria. Nominated by Malaria No More, she has helped influence the Cameroon government to increase domestic funding for malaria by more than 400 percent in recent years.

Olivia Ngou, Rising Champion Award winner, said: "I am overwhelmed and humbled by the recognition of the REACH Awards, which shines a light on health workers and local NGOs who contribute to global health improvements. I want to highlight my fellow nominees, leaders and partners, champions in Malaria, and civil society organizations who support and inspire me every day in my work to unlock more funding towards eliminating malaria in Africa."

Dr William H. Foege was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for dedicating his career to disease elimination. A renowned American epidemiologist and physician, Dr Foege is best known for devising the global strategy that resulted in the eradication of smallpox 40 years ago this year.

Dr Foege's important work in the global health community has also seen him play an instrumental role in greatly increasing immunization rates in developing countries.

The first Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States and Founder of the Carter Centre, in 2017.

"I want to thank His Highness for his leadership and for acknowledging the important milestone we are approaching as we near the anniversary of the eradication of smallpox," said Bill Foege, winner of Lifetime Achievement Award. "We have the opportunity to rewrite history and prevent suffering before it happens. This award is more than a recognition of past work; it is also an acknowledgement of the global genius cluster that is working together towards a brighter future for all. The work is urgent and our goal is aspirational – I hope one day this period will be known for forever improving the fate of all humankind."

Over 600 nominations were received from over 80 countries for this year's Awards. These were narrowed down to a group of fifteen finalists who covered a broad area of global health work, including preventing the spread of polio and Ebola, eradicating onchocerciasis (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.

Winners were selected by a jury of esteemed global health leaders from the private sector, multilateral organisations, foundations, medicine, technical fields, and governments. The jury included:

Helen Clark, Former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Former Administrator of UNDP; Ms. Louise Mushikiwabo, Secretary-General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie;

Professor Lord Kakkar PC, Professor of Surgery University College London and Director Thrombosis Research Institute London UK; Dr. Maha Barakat, Chair of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria; Professor Baron Peter Piot, Director of London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; Ray Chambers, Ambassador for Global Strategy, World Health Organization; Dr. Chris Elias, President of Global Development Division, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Robyn Calder Harawi, Executive Director, The ELMA Philanthropies Services (U.S.) Inc.; and Bobby Shriver, Activist, Attorney, Producer.

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