India’s ASHA workers among six recipients of Global Health Leaders Award at World Health Assembly

One million ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers, who are at the forefront of healthcare delivery in India, have been awarded the Global Health Leaders Award-2022 in the background of the ongoing 75th World Health Assembly.

“ASHA (meaning hope in Hindi) is more than one million volunteers in India, honored for their critical role in connecting the community to the health system, to ensure that those living in rural poverty have access to primary health care services, as demonstrated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 19,” said a statement issued by the World Health Organization. They were one of the six award winners.

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Other beneficiaries included eight volunteer polio workers who were shot dead by gunmen in Afghanistan’s Takhar and Kunduz provinces in February of this year. The World Health Organization said this work is critical in a country where polio is still prevalent. Notably, Pakistan and Afghanistan are still the only two countries in the world where polio is still transmitted.

The award also honored Dr. Paul Farmer for his contribution to providing direct healthcare services, research and advocacy for patients and those living in poverty; Dr. Ahmed Hankir for his anti-stigma program that blends the power of performing arts and storytelling with psychiatry. Volleyball player Ludmila Sofia Oliveira Varela to facilitate access to sports as an alternative to risky behavior in young people; Yohei Sasakawa for his global fight against leprosy and associated stigma and social discrimination.

WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said, “At a time when the world is facing unprecedented convergence of inequality, conflict, food insecurity, climate crisis and pandemic, this award is given in recognition to those who have made an outstanding contribution to protecting and promoting Health Worldwide. These award recipients exemplify lifelong dedication, uncompromising advocacy, commitment to equality, and selfless service to humanity.”

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