2 African activists awarded ‘Alternate Nobel Prize’

2 African activists awarded ‘Alternate Nobel Prize’

by / 9 Comments / 24 View / 19th October 2009

Rene NgongoTwo African activists, Rene Ngongo and Catherine Hamlin, on Tuesday won the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize”.

Ngongo, an activist working in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been recognised for his efforts in protecting his countries rain forests. Hamlin, based in Ethiopia for the last five decades, has dedicated her life to improving women’s health in the East African country.

Other winners include Alyn Ware from New Zealand, who was recognised for his advocacy initiatives to rid the world of nuclear weapons, and David Suzuki from Canada, for promoting the socially responsible use of science.

Besides the accolade of the award itself, each winner will receive €50,000 ($74,000) to help them continue the work they are doing.

The foundation said Ngongo, 48, was honoured “for his courage in confronting the forces that are destroying Congo’s rain forests and building political support for their conservation and sustainable use.”

Ngongo founded the OCEAN environmental group began in 1994, exposing the impact of deforestation and monitoring the plunder of minerals by warring factions during Congo’s 1996-2002 civil wars. He also has been working for Greenpeace in Congo.

Hamlin, 85, moved to Ethiopia from Australia in 1959 to work as an obstetrician and gynaecologist. Hamlin and her late husband founded a hospital where women can seek free treatment for obstetric fistulas, which are holes that develop between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum that can develop during long and difficult births. They are common in Africa and other developing countries where prenatal care is limited. Hamlin pioneered surgical procedures that achieved a 93% success rate.

One of the biggest dangers of fistula is the loss of the baby. Untreated, fistula can also lead to chronic medical problems, including kidney disease and nerve damage in the legs.

Swedish-German philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull founded the Right Livelihood Award in 1980 to recognise work he felt was being ignored by the Nobel Prize.

“The 2009 Right Livelihood Award recipients demonstrate concretely what has to be done in order to tackle climate change, rid the world of nuclear weapons and provide crucial medical treatment to the poor and marginalised,” the foundation said in a statement.

The awards will be presented in a ceremony at the Swedish Parliament on the 4th December, six days before the Nobel Prize ceremony.