Geneva (Fides Service) – A prestigious award has been given to an Italian volunteer who has worked for thirty three years in Somalia treating people with tuberculosis. On June 25 in Geneva the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees presented the Nansen Award to Annalena Tonelli, who started a hospital for TB patients in Borama in the north west region of Somalia, bordering Ethiopia and Djibouti.
Last year Fides Service told the heroic story of Miss Tonelli. “I set out for Africa, determined to tell the Gospel with my life, in the footsteps of Charles de Foucould” Annalena told Fides. “I am not a doctor. I have a degree in law and a few certificates and diplomas in medicine. However I am an adviser to the World Health Organisation in the field of TB Control. I am also a pioneer of WHO’s global policy for TB control launched in 1993, called DOTS (Directly Observed Therapy Short chemotherapy)”.
Miss Tonelli had this to say about the challenges she faces every day: “TB is one of the first opportunistic diseases that affects HIV people in endemic zones such as Somalia. Terminal AIDS patients come to us because they have contracted TB. While treating TB we also treat opportunistic infections contracted by the patients because their immunity system has collapsed.”
The Nansen Refugee Award is given to persons or organisations for outstanding work to assist refugees. It was instituted in 1954 and takes its name from Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen, the first UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The prize consist of US$ 100,000 to be donated to a project for refugees selected by the winner.
“Miss Tonelli lives a modest life, eating the same food that is given to her patients” said UN High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers when he announced the award in April this year. “For the past three decades, and in particular in critical and rapidly changing times as the present, her calm dedication to helping people in difficulty has been a tangible proof that individuals can still make an enormous difference”. LM (Fides Service 26/6/2003 EM lines 38 Words: 439)