American Helping Displaced in Marawi Among Magsaysay Award Recipients

Jeoffrey Maitem
Zamboanga, Philippines
American Helping Displaced in Marawi Among Magsaysay Award Recipients Girls carry water containers to be filled at an evacuation camp for families displaced by the Marawi siege, in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur province, Philippines, May 14, 2019.

An American helping rebuild the lives of thousands of people who were displaced when Islamic State group fighters took over the Philippine city of Marawi is among this year’s recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards, Asia’s highest honor, which were announced on Tuesday.

Other awardees are a Filipino fisherman and community environmentalist, a Bangladeshi doctor who helped develop vaccines, a Pakistani anti-poverty worker and an Indonesian media group, said the Manila-based body that administers the awards.

American Steven Muncy, 64, was recognized for a non-profit organization he formed called the Community and Family Service International (CFSI), which has provided relief to thousands of families experiencing disasters, including those affected by the five-month battle in Marawi.

He is being recognized for “his life-long dedication to humanitarian work, refugee assistance, and peace building; and his unstinting pursuit of dignity, peace, and harmony for people in exceptionally difficult circumstances in Asia,” the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation said in a statement.

Among other initiatives of the foundation, CFSI is implementing the Marawi Recovery Project, aimed at providing livelihood and other assistance to some 40,000 people, the foundation said.


American Steven Muncy, 64, a humanitarian activist who works in the southern Philippines, in an undated photograph. [Photo courtesy The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation]

Established in 1958 and named after the 7th Philippine president, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia’s most prestigious prize and often has been described as the region’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

Like recipients in earlier years, this year’s awardees inspire with their vision, leadership and persistence, the foundation said.

“Like the other Magsaysay laureates before them, they have shown moral courage and impassioned insistence on making the societies that they serve better, kinder, and more equitable for everyone, especially for the marginalized,” Susan Afan, president of the foundation, said in a statement.


Dr. Firdausi Qadri, a Bangladeshi scientist who works in vaccine development, is seen in an undated photograph. [Photo courtesy The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation]

Also awarded this year was Dr. Firdausi Qadri, a Bangladeshi national, who was recognized for her contributions to vaccine development.

She is being recognized for “her passion and life-long devotion to the scientific profession; her vision of building the human and physical infrastructure that will benefit the coming generation of Bangladeshi scientists, women scientists in particular, and her untiring contributions to vaccine development,” the foundation said.

One of Qadri’s most challenging engagements was in the fight against cholera and typhoid, which are major diseases in Bangladesh and Asian and African countries. She played a key role in the development of a more affordable oral cholera vaccine and the typhoid conjugate vaccine for adults, children, and infants as young as nine months, the foundation said.

A Filipino environmentalist, Roberto “Ka Dodoy” Ballon, was also honored for “his inspiring determination in leading his fellow fisher folk to revive a dying fish industry by creating a sustainable marine environment for this generation and generations to come.”

In 1986, he and other farmers created the Association of Small Fishermen in Concepcion in the southern Zamboanga Sibugay province, the foundation said. The group works to conserve natural resources by replanting hectares of coastal areas with mangroves.


Filipino Roberto “Ka Dodoy” Ballon who helped his country’s fisher folk to revive a dying fish industry, is seen in an undated photograph. [Photo courtesy The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation]

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, the foundation recognized an Indonesia-based organization called Watchdoc Media Mandiri, a production house that combines documentary filmmaking and alternative platforms to highlight underreported issues in the country.

Watchdoc is being recognized for Emerging Leadership in an Organization “for its highly principled crusade for an independent media organization, its energetic use of investigative journalism, documentary filmmaking, and digital technology in its effort to transform Indonesia’s media landscape, and its commitment,” the foundation said.

In South Asia, Pakistan’s Muhammad Amjad Saqib meanwhile was awarded for setting up the largest microfinance institution that offers loans for the poor.

Akhuwat, Saqib's institution, has distributed 4.8 million interest-free loans amounting to the equivalent of U.S. $900 million, helping three million families, with a 99.9 percent loan repayment rate, the foundation said.


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