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Something positive from the Middle East for once!


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Washington, D.C. - Two medical workers, one Israeli and one Palestinian, working side-by-side to administer health care and medical treatment during the bloody West Bank conflict, have been singled out to receive the prestigious Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights for 2002.

Dr. Ruchama Marton and Salah Haj Yehya, who operate a mobile clinic to serve Palestinian Civilians - often by foot to maneuver past military blockades -- were officially informed of their selection during a telephone conference today by Dr. Nils Daulaire, president and CEO of the Global Health Council.

The Mann Award is bestowed annually in honor of the late Dr. Jonathan Mann to an active practitioner carrying out in practice a commitment to health and rights, often at great personal danger.

Each previous winner has been selected for similar health and human rights efforts under stressful, oppressive and often violent conditions. With the help of the Award, each has had remarkable impact on the delivery of health care and the protection of human dignity in their respective countries, including China, Kosovo and Myanmar.

In the case of Dr. Ruchama Marton, she is founder of the 14-year old Israeli-Palestinian Association of Physicians for Human Rights. Together with her Palestinian associate, Mr. Yehya, they have confronted violations of health and human rights on both sides of the 1967 borders and campaign for free passage of Palestinian medical goods, patients and medical personnel to and from medical centers in the occupied territories.

Working to bridge the deep divides of the Middle East, Dr. Marton has spoken before the Knessett and met with Yasser Arafat during his confinement in Ramallah.

Mr. Yehya coordinates passage of patients to and from medical centers within the Occupied Territories. Despite the hostilities, he has coordinated for Palestinian organizations the passage of medical supplies, medicines, equipment and evacuating ambulances by corresponding with Israeli military authorities and international organizations.

The two winners of the 2002 Mann Award, selected from nearly 100 nominees, are compelling voices for peace and reconciliation, and offer the greatest hope for a humane resolution of the current Middle East conflict. "In a region where violence and counter-violence have become the norm, it takes individuals of true courage to make the protection of health and human dignity the centerpiece of hope for a humane and peaceful future," Dr. Daulaire said in a telephone conference to Israel Wednesday. "Their dedication is surpassed only by their courage to pursue the ideals established by Jonathan Mann."

Dr. Marton and Mr. Yehya have faced enormous political and physical barriers in their work to provide the health care guaranteed under Israeli law and often denied to the Palestinian population. When an individual who seeks treatment at the clinic is in obvious need of a referral to a specialist, Marton and Yehya advocate for the patient, trying to obtain safe passage and treatment at the appropriate facility. Because this often involves negotiations with Israeli soldiers at checkpoints their passage is frequently denied. There have been several instances of children dying because they were denied access to care.

The actual presentation of the award will be made during the Global Health Council's annual awards banquet on Thursday, May 30 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. At that time, the second annual $1 million Gates Award for Global Health as well as the Excellence in Media Award will also be announced.

The non-profit Global Health Council is the largest membership alliance dedicated to improving the quality of and access to health worldwide, through international advocacy, alliance building and best practices.

Dr. Jonathan Mann (1947-1998) was a voice of conscience and a tireless advocate for people around the world denied the basic rights of access to the necessities required for their human health and dignity. He and his wife Mary Lou Clements-Mann were aboard Swissair Flight 111 when it plunged into the Atlantic on Sept. 2, 1998.

Dr. Mann had been the first director of WHO's Global Programme on AIDS, and had subsequently founded Harvard University's FXB Center for Health and Human Rights. Working with the World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, he had ambitious plans to put human rights at the center of global health policy. For additional information on the Jonathan Mann Award, contact: jmannaward@globalhealth.org

An online photograph of Dr. Marton is available at http://humanrights.uchicago.edu/current.htm


1999-Dr. Cynthia Maung, Director of the Mae Tao Clinic (Thailand). Amid the violence and social chaos of the Burmese civil war, Dr. Maung's clinic located in the jungle of northwestern Thailand, developed into a thriving facility. It serves more than 20,000 refugees annually, offering free medical services, a feeding center for malnourished children, mobile medical teams, income generation programs for young women and men and a home for children orphaned by the conflict. The Burmese military junta has regularly attacked Dr. Maung and her clinic and the Mann Award has allowed an expansion of this essential work.

2000-Co-winner: Dr. Flora Brovina, Founder and Director of the League of Albanian Women (Pristina, Kosovo). A Kosovo-based human rights activist, Dr. Brovina established a clinic to provide shelter for women and children as well as basic medical treatment and information. Her decision to remain in the war zone to offer her medical skills to a community ravaged by war, led to her imprisonment by the Serbian authorities. The international publicity associated with her receipt of the Mann Award led to her release from prison several months later, shortly after Slobodan Milosevic was ousted.

Co-winner: Dr. Vjosa Dobruna, founder and director of the Center for the Protection of Women and Children (Pristina, Kosovo). An ethnic Albanian pediatrician and trauma care specialist, Dr. Dobruna provided care for women and child victims of human rights abuses including rape, beatings and torture. Her center operated throughout the violent Serbian crackdown on the Kosovar Albanian population in 1998-99 and she fled as she too was about to be arrested.

2001-Dr. Gao Yaojie, retired gynecologist and AIDS activist in China's Henan Province. In the mid-1990's, Dr. Gao uncovered the connection between the selling of blood by poor peasants and the escalating spread of AIDS, exacerbated by the profiteering of provincial health care workers. In the face of opposition and threats from local and provincial governments, Dr. Gao continued her one-woman campaign to educate the public and to raise the issue with the world outside Henan Province, thus running great political and security risks. At the time the Mann Award was presented, provincial health officials continued to deny the presence of HIV, but subsequently the international publicity that was directed at this issue led Chinese national health officials to acknowledge the exploding problem of blood-donation related HIV and take action. This has subsequently led to a change in national policy related to HIV/AIDS.

The Global Health Council is the world's largest membership alliance dedicated to global health. With a membership that includes health care professionals, non-governmental and governmental organizations, academic institutions, foundations and corporations, GHC promotes equity in health around the world through advocacy, by building global alliances and communicating experiences and best practices. For more information about the Global Health Council visit, http://www.globalhealth.org

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Finally, something good to come out of the Middle East. Now if the leaders and citizens can just take a time out and realize the significance of this moving event, we might be able to make some headway into the problems of both camps :)

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