World Health Day 7 April 2022 and the Olle Hansson Award
The Award this year – 2022 – is granted jointly to Ms Winnie Byanyima and
Professor Mohammed Raouf Hamed.
The World Health Day celebrated on April 7 every year, this year takes the theme: Our planet, our health. Therein is a very important message that escapes us most of the time: We are inherently connected to the planet. The microcosmic world within us is linked in a holistic way to the external macrocosmic world. Thus, our health and planetary health are linked as well.
The pandemic is the living reminder of this, illustrated by the many unfortunate incidences involving vaccines which have been dubbed as “vaccine inequity,” “vaccine nationalism,” and even “vaccine apartheid”. One important lesson learned is the issue of trust amid the pandemic.
The recipients of the Olle Hansson Award demonstrate the crucial qualities and the links to our health and our planet. World Health Day 2022 is a very fitting day to announce the recipients of the Olle Hansson Award.
The Olle Hansson Award
Olle Hansson was a Paediatric Neurologist and a pioneer in demanding pharmaceutical industry accountability. He waged a relentless struggle against companies manufacturing hazardous drugs.
‘Olle was a very special inspiration to us. His courage, his competence, his commitment were rare in a profession that is more often too comfortable or too implicated to speak out against a powerful industry.’ His passing away at 49 years on 23 May 1985 was mourned not only by words but by a series of actions that will continue to inspire those working to see a more responsible pharmaceutical industry worldwide’. Anwar Fazal
The Olle Hansson Award has not been presented since 2008 and to mark the 40th anniversary of HAIAP, it has been revived. The Award recognises the work of an individual from a low or middle income country who has contributed the most to:
- Promoting the concepts of essential medicines and their rational use, and access to vaccines
- Increasing the awareness among consumers of the dangers of irrational and hazardous medicinal drugs and unethical marketing.
- Supporting and promoting health for all and addressing the structural and human rights issues relating to health.
In addition to the 2022 Awards to Ms Winnie Byanyima and Professor Raouf Hamed, we recognise retrospectively three very significant people who we have lost in recent years. We recognise Dr Amit Sengupta with the Award for 2018, Mr Martin Khor Kok Peng, 2019 and Dr Mohamed Azmi Hassali Ahmed 2020.
A virtual (zoom) Award Ceremony will take place May 23 (Olle Hansson Day) (2022) – and will include tributes to the Awardees. The ceremony will link Penang, Delhi, Geneva and Cairo. More information about the ceremony will be shared later.
Winnie Byanyima, Olle Hansson Award 2022
The Award recognises her tireless commitment to championing access to basic healthcare and health equity including essential medicines and technologies, especially in the world’s most deprived regions throughout her illustrious career in many titles and professional positions; while continuing to address the structural and human rights issues within these spheres.
Deeply committed to basic healthcare as a human right, Winnie Byanyima has tirelessly used the many titles and professional positions of her illustrious career to champion access to basic healthcare and health equity especially in the world’s most deprived regions.
Ms Byanyima’s advocacy for affordable basic healthcare kicked into high gear with her tenure as Executive Director of Oxfam International between 2013 and 2019, when she was also appointed by then-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the High-Level Panel for Access to Medicines. This Panel was established in 2015 to address policy incoherence between the justifiable rights of inventors, international human rights law, trade rules and public health in the context of health technologies. She has always been a proponent of creating access to healthcare for all and has continued to address the structural and human rights issues within this sphere. Her concern is evident in Oxfam’s response to the findings of the High-Level Panel’s Report, which forcefully called for a new intellectual property regime for pharmaceutical products that would be consistent with international human rights law and public health requirements. Oxfam also called for a review of the TRIPS Agreement, a demand that Ms Byanyima has echoed in the recent past when she advocated and, jointly with various states, called for a People’s Vaccine for COVID19 at the outset of the pandemic.
Under her leadership as UNAIDS Executive Director, a new Global AIDS Strategy has been adopted. It focuses on ending the inequalities that drive new HIV infections and keep people away from services. In June 2021, the UN General Assembly adopted a Political Declaration. It recognized “access to safe, effective, equitable and affordable medicines and commodities for all, without discrimination” as fundamental to the full realization of the right to health. . Her stance on free global distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines to everyone everywhere is based not only on the recognition that access to life-saving medicines is a human right, but also on the realisation that the withholding of vaccines from the low-income countries perpetuates gross inequalities.
Winnie Byanyima’s fight for health equity is admirable and should be recognised. Her work in protecting the vulnerable through health promotion and her belief in creating and widely deploying affordable medicines, which she considers a human right’s issue, will continue to save millions of lives in Africa and elsewhere. It is hard to think of anyone who, in this century, has achieved more toward – in the spirit of Dr Olle Hansson – “promoting the concepts of essential medicines and their rational use, and access to vaccines, supporting and promoting health for all and addressing the structural and human rights issues relating to health.”
Mohammed Raouf Hamed, Olle Hansson Award 2022
The Award recognises his contributions to knowledge related to the rational and safe use of medicines by mobilising academics while recognising the challenges facing the pharmaceutical sector in developing countries. He has challenged and exposed global structures that impede equity in the health sector and focussed on strengthening diverse aspects of drug development, regulation and policy in a range of countries throughout Africa and the Middle East.
Prof. Mohammed Raouf Hamed has adopted a futuristic approach while focusing on the diverse aspects of drug development, regulation and policy. He contributed to knowledge related to the rational and safe use of medicines, as well as pointed out the challenges facing the pharmaceutical sector in developing countries. In 1984, he flagged the absence of a drug policy in Egypt and started advocating for the development of one, as well as wider pharmaceutical reform.
As early as 1992, Professor Hamed was among the first to caution against the negative implications of the GATT negotiations on the pharmaceutical sectors in developing countries. Besides mobilising academics locally, he was the main lecturer on TRIPS and medicines at the World Forum on Globalisation and Trade in Beirut, organised before the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation in Doha in 2001. Thanks to this Forum, international civil society organised their efforts to defend access to medicines, leading to the adoption of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health. Shortly after, in 1994, Prof. Hamed worked on establishing a strategic research alliance among Egyptian pharmaceutical companies in response to TRIPS.
He pioneered several regulatory and research centres in Egypt, at the National Organisation for Drug Control and Research (NODCAR). He established the Laboratory of Drug Teratogenicity (1972); the Departments of Developmental Pharmacology (1984); and the Centre for Drug Bioavailability (1990) for bioequivalence studies and research, long before these studies existed in pharmacopoeias.
With these centres in place, research-oriented drug regulation developed in Egypt, ensuring the quality, safety and efficacy of medicines circulating in the market. In parallel, Prof. Hamed exposed practices that hindered pharmaceutical development in Egypt calling for radical changes. This was met with resistance by those whose interests were threatened and Prof. Hamed was subject to pressures which aimed at curbing the mandate of NODCAR. Unfortunately, these pressures led to his suspension in 1988, and his dismissal from the membership of the Board of Directors of NODCAR as well as expulsion from his position as Head of the Pharmacology Departments by a ministerial decision in 2008. These decisions were, however, met with strong societal and media condemnation because of Prof. Hamed’s commendable contributions to the improvement of drug policies and the advancement of the pharmaceutical industry in Egypt at the time.
In Libya, Prof. Hamed contributed to the development of the curriculum of Faculty of Pharmacy at Al-Fateh (currently Tripoli) University in 1978-1983, and introduced the concept of essential medicines. He also led pioneering researches on capsaicin, the active substance in cayenne pepper which is a principal element of the Libyan cuisine, which led to discoveries about its protective role against the induction of gastric ulcers.
Prof. Hamed supervised 35 Master’s and PhD theses awarded in pharmacology, and 165 applied drug research projects. His writings cover a wide range of areas, including books and book chapters, as well as numerous articles and studies in Egyptian and Arab newspapers, magazines and periodicals.
Amit Sengupta, Olle Hansson Award 2018
Amit Sengupta (1958-2018) led the struggle for the Right to Health and access to safe affordable good quality medicines from the forefront. Through his public presence and narrative skills he provided guidance for people-centred initiatives to highlight social justice and challenge the hegemony of profit oriented transnational pharmaceutical companies and the inequitable distribution of global wealth.
Amit Sengupta studied medicine at Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC) in Delhi, and graduated in the early 1980s. MAMC is affiliated to the University of Delhi and run by the Delhi government. It is named after the Indian freedom fighter and first education minister of independent India – Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
After graduating, he was attached to one of the four teaching hospitals linked to MAMC. However, according to colleagues he didn’t fit in. Idealism came before himself. Within a week of starting a clinic near Sainik Farms, he is remembered as asking how could he charge the poor for treatment.
Soon after graduation, Amit was working in the Delhi Science Forum and was busy in the science popularisation movement. He was actively engaged with the All India People’s Science Network of which he later became national General Secretary. He came to the health movement a little later. A national platform for science organisations in India had started in the late 1960s and that network interested Amit from his student days. The network had expanded by the 1980s and the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984 created a situation for groups to work together against the abuse of science and technology.
After graduation Amit Sengupta had a low-key private practice but basically gave up what could have been a lucrative career to work for people’s health. He was passionate about people’s access to health care and essential medicines. During the 1980s he remained in touch with Dr K Balasubramaniam and Dr Mira Shiva who were active in the All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN) and Action for Rational Drugs in Asia (ARDA). The Drug Action Forum (Karnataka) (DAFK), AIDAN, the National Campaign Committee for Drug Policy (NCCDP) and many other organisations filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court of India in 1993 praying for a ban on irrational and hazardous drugs. Amit represented the NCCDP and hearings went on for over eight years. The issue of banning hazardous and irrational drugs remains an ongoing issue.
Amit had connected with Dr Bala through the ARDA group, listing his affiliation as the NCCDP throughout the years he was associated with HAIAP. He became associated with the network that became HAIAP before he became involved in the movement that became PHM in 2000. Each year Amit provided detailed information to support the focal topics of HAIAP’s regional consultations.
With the creation of PHM globally and its Indian chapter Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA), Amit became deeply involved with understanding and addressing problems in health care due to globalisation. He coordinated the editorial group of the Global Health Watch, a people-centred initiative that highlighted social justice brought out by PHM, Medact and Zed Books as an alternative to WHO’s World Health Report. Five editions of GHW were brought out with active engagement and coordination by Amit – reflecting his coordination and editing skills. Importantly, his work with GHW linked him with HAIAP members in their own countries.
Martin Khor Kok Peng, Olle Hansson Award 2019
Martin Khor was a staunch internationalist, an economist who pursued a lifelong struggle for a radical transformation of global economic relations, with knowledge, commitment and critical insight, while taking the side of the countries of the Global South and calling for globally equitable environmental policies and truly sustainable development. He relentlessly pursued the issues of antimicrobial resistance along with trade regimes, especially intellectual property issues, in the pursuit of equitable access to safe, affordable essential medicine and technologies in a strengthened public health system providing universal health care.
Martin Khor (1951-2020) was the Third World Network’s Chairman and former Director, and then he became Executive Director of the South Centre (March 2009 to June 2018). He had lived with cancer since 2015 and had worked even harder as the inspiring mentor, strategic and action-oriented thinker, indefatigable advocate and wonderful husband, father and grandfather that he was.
Martin leaves a huge void that will be difficult to fill. There is a rich legacy of successful battles and several ongoing ones to be continued by colleagues and associates in global civil society and the trade and justice movement. We cannot even begin to reach out to all of Martin’s friends and supporters, young and old, who over the decades have marched with him to reject injustice and inequity among peoples especially of the South, and to defend nature again and again. In his memory let us all continue on the journey that Martin helped to chart. Martin was a wonderful human being and a huge support to all who are working in advocacy to promote equity and fairness in lower- and middle-income countries.
Anwar Fazal: ‘We have lost Martin Khor, a rare public intellectual who spent his lifetime in serving the public interest on issues of economics, ecology and equity; his work with the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) of which he was still Secretary; Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM); Third World Network (TWN). Most significant too, he served as head of the international South Centre based in Geneva, which promoted and protected the interests of the Third World against global hegemony by imperial economic and geopolitical powers. Even Tun Mahathir, Prime Minister of Malaysia, invited Martin to brief the Cabinet, a rare thing for civil society activists. Although always appearing with a serious deep-thinking demeanour, he had a warm heart, as reflected in his most recent and last book which was titled The Secret to Happiness and dedicated to his granddaughter. Martin took his writing skills to the whole world. Malaysia and civil society have lost an outstanding writer and activist.’
Mohamed Azmi Ahmad Hassali, Olle Hansson Award 2020
Azmi Hassali (1974-2021) is recognised for major contributions to pharmaceutical sciences through research and education in the fields of social pharmacy, pharmacoepidemiology, pharmacy practice research, clinical pharmaco-economics and clinical pharmacy with community based research and education encompassing access to and use of appropriate affordable essential medicines and high focus on use of antimicrobials to minimise antimicrobial resistance, while making a major contribution to the education of a new enlightened generation of pharmacists.
Azmi Hassali passed away at a very young age when he was making a major contribution to pharmaceutical sciences. He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Pharmacy from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in the year 1998, followed soon after with a Master’s Degree in the field of clinical pharmacy from the same university in 2000. For his outstanding performance, he was then selected to receive the Universiti Sains Malaysia Academic Staff Training Fellowship (ASTS) to pursue his PhD studies in the field of social pharmacy in Australia in 2002, consequently earning him a PhD by the Victorian College of Pharmacy at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
As a researcher, Azmi’s main areas of expertise included the fields of social pharmacy, pharmacoepidemiology, pharmacy practice research, clinical pharmaco-economics and clinical pharmacy.
He was very active in the area of rational use of medicines, and promoted the understanding and use of generics. He fought continuously for the separation of prescribing and dispensing in Malaysia and for strengthening the role of pharmacists in medication management, pharmacovigilance and patient safety.
He was an innovative and resourceful educator inspiring his students with his own enthusiasm.