Aklilu Lemma and Legesse Wolde-Yohannes, two Ethiopian researchers whose work focuses on schistosomiasis, have won the 1989 Right Livelihood Cash Award, which honors and supports research specifically geared toward improving the quality of human life. The prize is presented by the Right Livelihood Awards Foundation, a United Kingdom-based international charitable organization that has been giving four cash awards annually since 1980. The prize is the brainchild of Jakob von Uexkull, a Swedish-German writer and philatelic expert, who sold his stamp collection to provide the initial endowment because he believed that the Nobel Prizes had become too narrow and specialized in focus and ignored work that was vital for the survival of humankind.
Lemma, who is deputy director of UNICEF's International Child Development Center, Florence, Italy, and Wolde-Yohannes, of the Institute of Pathobiology, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, received the award December 9, one day before the Nobel Prize presentations, at a ceremony held at the Swedish Parliament. The researchers will share a $60,000 prize.
Lemma and Wolde-Yohannes were honored for discovering a natural pesticide in a common Ethiopian plant, the endod, or soapberry plant, which contains toxin that can kill the snails carrying schistosomiasis. The parasitic disease affects more than 300 million people, primarily in developing countries.
Lemma, who has worked for the United Nations in various capacities since 1976, has a doctorate in pathobiology from Johns Hopkins University. In 1966, he established the Institute of Pathobiology at Addis Ababa University. Wolde-Yohannes, who holds a doctorate in horticultural science from the Technical University in Hannover, W. Ger., has coordinated endod research at the institute since 1980. Lemma and Wolde-Yohannes are now working with John Lambert in the biology department at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. They are being supported by a grant from Canada's International Development Research Centre, a public corporation created by the Canadian Parliament that supports scientific and technical research in developing countries.