The founder of Malaysian Medical Relief Society (MERCY Malaysia), Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood, has won the ASEAN Prize this year in recognition of her exceptional humanitarian and disaster relief work around the world
The ASEAN Prize is a prestigious regional award which aims to acknowledge the inspiring and outstanding achievements of an individual or organisation who have significantly contributed to ASEAN community-building efforts.
According to New Straits Times, Dr Jemilah is the the first Malaysian recipient of the ASEAN Prize.
Last year, the inaugural ASEAN Prize was given to Erlinda Uy Koe from the Philippines, who is the former chair of the ASEAN Autism Network (AAN).
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and ASEAN Secretary-General Datuk Lim Jock Hoi presented Dr Jemilah with a trophy and a cash prize of USD20,000 (RM83,310).
The award was presented at the opening ceremony of the 35th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok yesterday, 3 November, witnessed by all 10 ASEAN leaders, including Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Dr Jemilah is no ordinary woman
She started MERCY Malaysia, which is the country's first medical charity, to provide volunteer medical and health services when war tore through the Balkan state of Kosovo in 1999.
She personally led missions and development programmes in many parts of ASEAN, such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and the Philippines.
Under her guidance, MERCY Malaysia became the first NGO in Asia to be internationally-certified for humanitarian accountability in 2007.
She stepped down in 2009 after leading MERCY Malaysia for 10 years, reported Malaysiakini.
Dr Jemilah is currently serving as Under Secretary General for Partnerships at the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Seremban-born doctor will turn 60 next month on 3 December.
Dr Jemilah, who is an obstetrician and gynaecologist by training, has earned numerous awards and admirers for her dedication to humanitarian work in disaster and conflict zones around the world
As a testimony to her commitment, she continued saving lives despite being shot and was temporarily kidnapped in 2003 while travelling as part of a convoy providing medical aid during the Iraq War.
Just two months ago, Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak - who is the royal patron for MERCY Malaysia - awarded her the 'Tokoh Peneraju Kemanusiaan' Award for her work, reported Malay Mail.
Throughout the years, Dr Jemilah has also received the coveted Merdeka Award in Malaysia, the prestigious 'Gandhi, King, Ikeda Award' by Morehouse College USA, as well as the 'Isa Award for Services to Humanity' from the Kingdom of Bahrain - which has been likened to the Middle East equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize - all for her humanitarian work and contribution.
In his congratulatory remarks, Datuk Lim said Dr Jemilah's work in the field of medical and humanitarian response has been outstanding
"Her lifelong and focused advocacy for basic emergency response needs in support of marginalised communities is inspirational and relevant to the current environmental pressures in ASEAN," he said, as quoted by Business News Asia.
Meanwhile, Dr Jemilah pledged to donate the prize to the Surin Pitsuwan Foundation, a philanthropic organisation in Thailand which focuses on education, diplomacy, and human security in ASEAN, and the Malaysian Red Crescent Society, a voluntary humanitarian organisation.
"I am extremely honored and grateful that I am selected as the recipient for the ASEAN Prize. ASEAN is always home for me. It is important for ASEAN to recognise its citizens who contribute to the global issues, and I hope this could also inspire young generations to make a difference," Dr Jemilah said.