Dr Rita Colwell was among eight scientists who this week accepted the prestigious, and lucrative biannual Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz International Prize for Water. A prize-giving ceremony was held at UN headquarters, and presided over by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
Colwell, of University of Maryland at College Park, US, and Dr Shafiqul Islam of Tufts University, US, were awarded the “Creativity Prize” for their work using satellite data to predict cholera outbreaks. Colwell was the Stockholm Water Prize Laureate in 2010 when she was recognized for “pioneering research on the prevention of waterborne infectious diseases has helped protect the health and lives of millions”.
In total, eight scientists will share cash prizes ranging from a million to half a million Saudi Riyals ($260,000 USD to $130,000 USD).
Last week World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told a news conference that there were 1,410 suspected cholera cases in Yemen, where Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen recommenced October 23rd despite United Nations attempts to extend a short-lived ceasefire. Since March 2015, 6,200 people have died in the Yemen conflict between a Saudi-led coalition and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Water networks, power plants, airports, bridges, roads, schools and health facilities have all been destroyed.
Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi prize committee chairman,refused to comment on his country’s continuing bombing campaign. "The prize has nothing to do with politics, it has nothing to do with wars. It is there to prevent wars," Khalid said, describing the prize as a way “to help the whole world overcome the problem of the scarcity of water”.
Other scientists recognized at the New York ceremony were Dr Peter J. Webster of the Georgia Institute of Technology, US; Dr Gary Parker of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, US; Dr Tissa H. Illangasekare of the Colorado School of Mines, US; Dr Rong Wang and Dr Anthony Fang of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University; Dr Daniel P. Loucks of Cornell University, US.