Imtiaz Sooliman, a South African medical doctor and altruist, who gave up his career to pursue the field of humanitarian aid, has emerged winner of the 2023 Daily Trust African of the Year.
This is contained in a statement by Ahmed Shekarau, acting Group Chief Executive Officer of the Media Trust Group, said that Sooliman emerged among the nine finalists selected for the award.
He said that the winner’s aid transcended the boundaries of race, religion, culture, class and geography.
Shekarau added that the board for the selection chose winner out of the list of 736 nominations received at the end of the first phase of the selection process for the award in October.
The six-member Selection Board of the award, which was chaired by the Executive Chairman of AllAfrica Global Media Incorporated, Mr Amadou Mahtar Ba, in acting capacity, announced the winner on Friday, following a virtual meeting of the Board held on Nov. 20.
“After careful consideration of the works of the nine finalists, the Selection Board has unanimously decided that Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, a South African medical doctor who gave up his career to pursue the field of humanitarian aid, is the deserving winner of the 2023 African of the Year Award”.
‘’Dr Sooliman is a worthy and exemplary humanitarian, characterised by his solid belief in the common humanity that unites people of the world.
“He has guided the Gift of the Givers Foundation for more than 30 years to respond to and dispatch humanitarian and medical supplies to disaster areas on the continent and abroad,” Shekarau said.
He explained that Sooliman and his relief workers have since 1992 identified with, and provided relief materials wherever disasters strike.
“From the provision of food parcels in impoverished communities in South Africa to search and rescue teams and medical specialists in response to natural and man-made disasters, Gift of the Givers has shown commitment to alleviating human sufferings in varying contexts”.
He cited examples of the Foundation’s interventions in Turkey, shortly after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake of Feb. 6; the provision of food parcels, potable water, mattresses, clothing and hygiene packs to community members affected by the devastating flooding in Komani (formerly Queenstown) in Eastern Cape of South Africa, in February; as well as notable interventions in Libya, in the wake of the distressing flooding of Sept. 11 in Shahhat City.
The Gift of Givers has since the outbreak of the Oct. 7 war in Gaza Strip equally been providing humanitarian support to victims, resulting in the killing of the head of its relief workers in the Region, Ahmed Abbasi, on Nov. 16.
The nine finalists for the award include Qabale Duba, a Kenyan Nurse/Epidemiologist, who is using the Qabale Duba Foundation to educate nomadic pastoralist communities in Northern Kenya; and Tatenda Ndambakuwa, a Zimbabwean Mathematician and Urban Planner, who is passionate about ending hunger, and is using her organization called Shiri, a digital platform, to connect farmers to critical resources like weather updates, market prices, and farming tips.
Another is Dr Ola Orekunrin, a Nigerian medical doctor and helicopter pilot, who founded the Flying Doctors Nigeria, West Africa’s first Air Ambulance Service, which she uses to take trauma care to the most remote parts of West Africa.
The Award project was instituted in 2008 by Daily Trust, one of Nigeria’s leading independent newspapers, in line with its commitment to African unity and sustainable development.
It is to recognize and reward annually, an exemplary African who has made extra-ordinary contributions to human development in any part of the continent, and in any sphere of human endeavour.
Africans who have distinguished themselves in their various walks of life or do charity projects that are of positive impact to the continent’s people have since then been recognised for the award.
Congolese medical doctor, Denis Mukwege is the first African of the Year award winner in 2008; exactly 10 years after the Daily Trust recognition, Mukwege won the Noble Peace Prize in 2018, for his work of treating women who had been abused and raped in his war-torn country.
The award winner is selected by the six-member pan-African committee chaired by Festus Gontebanye Mogae, former President of Botswana.
Other members of the Advisory Board/Prize Committee are: Amb. Mona Omar Attia (North Africa), Ms Gwen Lister (Southern Africa), Mr Amadou Mahtar Ba (West Africa), Pastor Rigobert Bihuzo Minani (Central Africa), and Mr Kabiru A. Yusuf, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Media Trust Group.
The award comes with a cash prize, and the presentation of the 2023 award will be done during the Daily Trust Dialogue in January 2024.(NAN)