Hilton Foundation awards $2M to Task Force for Global Health

The 2016 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize was awarded to The Task Force for Global Health on September 30, 2016 at the Waldorf Astoria New York. Photo by: Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

The world’s largest humanitarian award is going to the Task Force for Global Health, boosting its work in neglected tropical diseases and vaccines and enabling the international health nonprofit to expand into tackling noncommunicable diseases.

Present and past leaders of the Task Force for Global Health received the $2 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize at the Hilton Foundation’s Friday event in midtown Manhattan.

The Decatur, Georgia-based organization, operating in more than 150 countries, works to control highly treatable — but potentially debilitating — neglected tropical diseases, also known as NTDs, which include blinding trachoma, river blindness and intestinal worms. The organization’s work is large-scale, but not necessarily high profile or well-known, said David Ross, the president and CEO of the group, noting in his acceptance speech that he was genuinely surprised by the award.

“We orchestrate a very large supply chain, a web of partnerships, and will treat literally over 100 million people for blinding trachoma in one year,” he told Devex.

This award will help the organization’s expand its physical capacity with a new building, which Ross described as a new global hub for health in Atlanta. It will also free up their capacity to work more on programs targeting noncommunicable diseases. Chronic diseases, including cancers and cardiovascular disease, kill 38 million people each year, mostly in low- and middle-income countries.

The Task Force for Global Health was established in 1984, at a time when only 20 percent of children in developing countries were receiving vital vaccinations. Within eight years, the Task Force helped raised the rate to 80 percent.

How would the humanitarian system work at its full potential?

The global refugee crisis is a daunting reality for those leading the charge for humanitarian response. Conrad N. Hilton Foundation President and CEO Peter Laugharn tells Devex that the humanitarian system needs to perform better and collaborate more.

Responses to the refugee and migrant crisis also received the spotlight at the Hilton Humanitarian Prize forum, titled “The future of humanitarian action.” Featured speakers included Iraqi-American humanitarian Zainab Salbi, who founded and runs Women for Women International, and Steve Davis, president and CEO of PATH.

The bulk of the challenge for refugee and migrant response lies in the developing world, noted Alexander Betts, director of the Refugee Studies Center at the University of Oxford, as 10 countries host 60 percent of the world’s refugees. Yet as the center’s research has shown, refugees and displaced people, when provided with basic rights, can make sound economic contributions to their host countries.

Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson reflected on the intersection of the response to refugees, health — and also climate change — at the event. She now serves as the president of the Mary Robinson Foundation — Climate Justice.

“We are not coping well with refugees and migrants. And not just in Europe, but everywhere,” she told Devex after the forum. She said The Elders, an organization of former statesmen including herself who now advocate for peace and development, “will be very much championing getting away from hate speech ... to understanding the value of diversity, but also very aware that climate will be a driver of people having to move, and there could be very big numbers.

“We need to factor in that this is not a phenomenon we will deal with today and tomorrow and get rid of. We need to accommodate, wholeheartedly, the idea of people being on the move with their rights protected, and in the sense if they come into countries they add to the diversity of those countries,” she told Devex.  

The Hilton Humanitarian Prize, established in 1996, has previously been awarded to Landesa, Fountain House/Clubhouse International, BRAC and Partners in Health, among others. The Hilton Foundation, which funds Catholic Sisters, substance abuse and blindness as priority areas, approved $114.78 million in grants in 2015. The organization had net assets of more than $2.5 billion that year.

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About the author

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    Amy Lieberman

    Amy Lieberman is the New York Correspondent for Devex. She covers the United Nations and reports on global development and politics. Amy previously worked as a freelance reporter, covering the environment, human rights, immigration, and health across the U.S. and in more than 10 countries, including Colombia, Mexico, Nepal, and Cambodia. Her coverage has appeared in the Guardian, the Atlantic, Slate, and the Los Angeles Times. A native New Yorker, Amy received her master’s degree in politics and government from Columbia’s School of Journalism.

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