TOKYO: Faisal Edhi of Edhi Foundation received the 22nd Nikkei Asian Award in Tokyo in recognition of foundation’s longstanding social and welfare activities for the general public.
Speaking at the award ceremony, Edhi emphasised that regional countries must cooperate and contribute towards solution of common problems of poverty, education, health, social insecurity and availability of basic amenities of life.
“We are proud to run all of these activities with the local support of the Pakistani people,” said Faisal Edhi, the son of Abdul Sattar and current head of the foundation.
He added that peace and harmony in the region could bring vital changes in the lives of masses as more resources might be dedicated to social and welfare well being.
He urged countries like Japan to play a significant role due its influence in international politics and scale of development. He also thanked Nikkei for recognising the contribution of Edhi Foundation towards welfare activities aimed at needy people.
The Nikkei Asia Prizes were created in 1996 to commemorate the 120th anniversary of Nikkei’s main Japanese language newspaper. Now in the 22nd year, the awards are given to individuals and groups in Asia that have made significant contributions to the region’s development.
This year, the culture and community prize went to Edhi Foundation in honor of its wide social welfare charity helping people irrespective of religion, race and social class.
Founded by Abdul Sattar Edhi in 1951, what started as a small free clinic is now the world’s biggest non-governmental welfare organization. To avoid political influences, the foundation does not accept funds from government and overseas charities.
The Edhi Ambulance Control Room in Karachi receives 3,500 calls a day. The foundation also operates a total of 1,800 ambulances across the country. The foundation also searches for missing people, provides shelters for orphans and seniors, and runs mortuaries.
Indian entrepreneur, Taiwanese virologist honoured
The architect of India’s biometric national identification system and a Taiwanese virologist were also among the recipients of the Nikkei Asia Prizes.
Former chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India Nandan Nilekani was awarded the economic and business innovation prize for his achievement in leading the development of the country’s biometric identification system Aadhaar, in which every citizen is given an ID number tied to a photo, fingerprint and iris scan.
Speaking at the award ceremony, Nilekani said social welfare was a high priority for the Indian government, but it had long lacked the means to accurately identify much of the country’s huge population.
“The lack of a proper ID system meant that, in every welfare scheme, there were a lot of ghost and duplicate beneficiaries, leading to fraud, corruption and wastage.”
Since the first ID was issued in 2010, over 1.1 billion people have been registered, making Aadhaar one of the world’s largest biometric ID databases.
“This experience has convinced me that a lot of challenges in developing countries can be solved at speed and scale in a sustainable way, by using technology wisely and built in a way that society can take advantage,” Nilekani said.
Michael Ming-Chiao Lai, distinguished research fellow at Taiwan’s Academia Sinica, won the science and technology prize.
Lai’s research on coronavirus , the cause of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) helped explain much of the mechanism and develop control measures for the disease which sent Asia into panic in 2003.
Coronavirus, named because its shape resembles the sun’s corona, was not known to cause significant diseases in humans and “was ignored by mainline scientific communities then,” Lai said during his remarks. Despite the lack of medical urgency, Lai and his team put great efforts into studying the virus.
Lai reminded the audience that research in viruses is an ongoing, collective effort, pointing at the examples of pandemic influenza, ebola and the spread of zika virus in recent years.
“The control of infectious diseases requires regional cooperation,” he said, “because viruses know no national boundaries and travel without passport.”