Dr Jemilah Mahmoon, a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, founded MERCY Malaysia in 1999 when she discovered there was no organisation that could sponsor her to volunteer her medical services during the Kosovo war.

By Ian Horswill


Posted on November 4, 2019

Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood, who founded the medical charity MERCY Malaysia, has been awarded the 2019 ASEAN Prize. The prestigious accolade is a tribute to her tireless work and dedication in the humanitarian-medical field in support of affected communities during natural disaster or conflict.

Dr Jemilah, 59, was awarded the trophy by the Thailand Prime Minister, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, and the Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dato Lim Jock Hoi, at the opening ceremony of the 35th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, today (local time).

“Her dedication reflects the principle that forms the foundation of an inclusive, resilient, people-oriented, and people-centred ASEAN Community,” ASEAN said.

Dr Jemilah, a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, founded MERCY Malaysia in 1999 when she discovered there was no organisation that could sponsor her to volunteer her medical services during the Kosovo War. After sending five missions into Kosovo, MERCY Malaysia sent medical teams into Turkey after the İzmit earthquake in 1999. MERCY Malaysia then sent medical teams into Maluku, Indonesia, to the Gujarat earthquake in India and the Cambodian floods, both in 2001 and to subsequent acts of human misery and suffering.

Dr Jemilah left Malaysia to become leader of the humanitarian branch of the United Nations Population Fund in New York City, where she directed her efforts toward reproductive health, gender-based violence, and emergency population data, from 2009 to 2011. In May 2014, Dr Jemilah was appointed head of the World Humanitarian Summit Secretariat at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in New York. Dr Jemilah was shot during a humanitarian mission taking medical supplies to children’s hospitals in Iraq in 2003. Her driver and the group’s pharmacist were killed.

Upon receiving the ASEAN Prize Dr Jemilah said that she was thankful for the recognition and expressed her appreciation to the Foreign Ministry for nominating her for the award.

“I hope this award will inspire more Malaysians and Asean citizens to get involved in (humanitarian issues) and development,” she said, adding that she also hoped that the award would inspire more women to follow in her path.

She pledged she would would give the prizemoney – US$20,000 – to the Surin Pitsuwan Foundation and the Malaysian Red Crescent Society.

Dr Jemilah said the Surin Pitsuwan Foundation was registered in August to promote educational assistance and eradicate poverty, along with improving diplomacy and human security.

Dr Jemilah is currently serving as under secretary-general for partnerships at the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) based in Geneva, Switzerland.

She won the coveted Merdeka Award that recognises and rewards individuals and organisations whose work and achievements have not only contributed to Malaysia’s growth and greatness.

Dr Jemilah has also been conferred the “Isa Award for Services to Humanity” from the Kingdom of Bahrain — which is the Middle East’s equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize — for her contribution to humanitarian, development, disaster risk reduction, education and poverty alleviation.