A microfinance pioneer from Pakistan — who developed an interest-free microfinance programme — was among Tuesday’s winners of Asia’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize.
Muhammad Amjad Saqib, 64, won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for his “first-of-its-kind” interest- and collateral-free microfinance programme that catalysed scores of poor households.
Nearly two decades after its launch, Akhuwat — founded by Dr Saqib — has grown into the nation’s largest microfinance institution, distributing the equivalent of $900 million and boasting an almost 100 per cent loan repayment rate, the award foundation said.
Saqib, who uses places of worship to hand out money, was cited for “his inspiring belief that human goodness and solidarity will find ways to eradicate poverty.”
The Ramon Magsaysay Award — named after a Filipino president killed in a plane crash — was established in 1957 to honour people and groups tackling development problems.
Meanwhile, Firdausi Qadri, 70, also won the award for her “life-long devotion to the scientific profession” and “untiring contributions to vaccine development”.
Working at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, Qadri had a “key role” in creating more affordable vaccines to combat cholera and typhoid, the Manila-based award foundation said in a statement.
Qadri was also cited for her leading role in a mass vaccination effort in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh’s southeastern district of Cox’s Bazar in recent years that prevented a cholera outbreak. The disease causes acute diarrhoea and spreads through contaminated food and water.
Qadri was also cited for her efforts to build up Bangladesh’s scientific research capacity.
“I’m overwhelmed, extremely delighted but also humbled,” Qadri said in a video message shared by the foundation.