Norwegian prize for outstanding humanitarian work in the Middle East

Published: 11 May 2001 0:00 CET

The Palestine Red Crescent (PRCS) and Israel's Magen David Adom (MDA) were awarded the Human Rights prize from the Lisl and Leo Eitinger Fund by the University of Oslo for their outstanding humanitarian work in the Middle East under extremely difficult political and operational conditions. The two National Societies, working within the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, have been providing emergency medical aid to thousands of people wounded in several months of violent clashes in the region.

The Committee's grounds for giving this award, announced on May 8th, were that these two organisations were "..... working side by side for the cause of humanity across the dividing lines in a brutal conflict with deep roots. Both the MDA and the PRCS have suffered many attacks on their vehicles, but in spite of this they are continuing their humanitarian effort."

Last October, the Palestine Red Crescent which had arrived first on the scene, provided first aid to ten Israeli soldiers and their Palestinian driver injured in a road traffic accident. They worked side by side with the Magen David Adom to help the injured. The MDA has, for its part, supported the Palestine Red Crescent with medical supplies and ensured safe passage for humanitarian aid to the Palestinian areas. The two organisations formalised this co-operation in an agreement on 21 December 2000 and have established regular contact at the highest level in order to assist each other in difficult situations.

The University of Oslo's Human Rights Award, The Lisl and Leo Eitinger Prize, awarded annually since 1986, is given to a person who has been committed to human rights issues or has performed outstanding research in psychiatry. This is the first year it has not been given to an individual.

Professor Leo Eitinger (1912-1997) was born in Lomnice, now in the Slovak Republic. In 1939 he came to Norway as a refugee. He worked as a resident in psychiatry in Norway but was arrested in 1942 and deported to the concentration camp at Auschwitz and later, Buchenwald. After returning to Norway after the war, he specialised in psychiatry. In 1966 he was appointed Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Oslo and became Head of the University Psychiatric Clinic.