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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

TB Award Gets Caught In Politics

December 2, 2013

By Betsy McKay

November 26, 2013 - There are few prizes or awards in the field of tuberculosis treatment. Tsetan Sadutshang appeared to be one of the chosen few when he was told in October by the organization that oversees the Kochon Prize for major contributions to the fight against TB, that the program he leads tentatively had been selected a winner.

Based in Dharamsala, India, his Tibetan Tuberculosis Control Program treats Tibetans in exile as well as Indian patients. Despite high rates of TB in the community, the program says 93% of its patients in 2012 were either confirmed cured or were well after their treatment ended.

"We have one of the highest rates of TB in the world," said Dr. Sadutshang, chief medical officer of the Tibetan Delek Hospital and personal physician to the Dalai Lama.

Yet Dr. Sadutshang's program wasn't given the award.

While the Kochon Prize selection committee of TB experts chose the Tibetan program, according to people close to the process, the winner must be approved by the director-general of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan. A WHO spokesman confirmed this and said the WHO administration, which advises the director-general, didn't approve the choice because the hospital has ties to the Tibetan government-in-exile. The Central Tibetan Administration, as that entity is known, isn't recognized by the United Nations. WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said the committee's selection was reviewed by the WHO administration's legal department.

China also objected to the choice, according to people familiar with the process, calling the TB program a political organization because it was linked to the government in exile. China's Permanent Mission in Geneva didn't respond to a request to comment.

The status of the selection of this year's winner is now unclear, the people close to the process said.

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