• Kyodo

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Two Japanese are among the recipients of this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding, organizers of the award said Wednesday.

Dr. Tetsu Nakamura, 56, will be honored for his work in medical relief in Afghanistan and Pakistan, while Seiei Toyama, 96, will receive the award for his contribution to reforestation projects in China.

The award, considered the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize, is named after the third president of the Philippines, who died in 1957.

The award has five categories and is given yearly to honor individuals and groups in Asia for their accomplishments in their respective fields.

Nakamura, a native of the city of Fukuoka, has been treating Hansen’s disease patients in Peshawar, Pakistan, and other places since 1984.

He set up the Peshawar-Kai, a Fukuoka-based nongovernmental organization that provides medical aid to people in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The NGO is also engaged in building hospitals and clinics and drilling wells.

“I understand that the award is being given to the products of the conscience of all the members and workers” of Peshawar-Kai, Nakamura said. “I believe the award organizers have evaluated our efforts to bring together people of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds.”

Born in 1906 in Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, Toyama set up the Japan Association for Greening Deserts, a nongovernmental organization engaging in the voluntary planting of young trees in China’s Inner Mongolia.

The association came under fire in February for allegedly falsifying documents in order to receive government subsidies, leading to its headquarters in Tottori being searched by the Foreign Ministry.

Some association members said Toyama deserves the award for his efforts in China reforestation projects. Others meanwhile have blamed the NGO leader for failing to provide a sufficient explanation over the subsidy scandal.