Gregoire Ahongbonon, from the Republic of Benin has been awarded the 2015 “African of the year award” in recognition of his sterling humanitarian work caring for people with mental disorders or disabilities in Cote d’Ivoire, Benin and Togo.

The prize is an initiative of Daily Trust, Nigeria’s leading newspaper, open for ordinary African citizens engaged in distinguished endeavours, charity projects in their communities that are of positive impact to the people, This Day Live reports.

Announcing the winner of the award in Accra, Ghana, the chair of the selection committee, former Tanzanian Prime Minister, Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, reportedly described the winner as an unsung African, who has committed himself to alleviating the suffering of the underprivileged in the society.

“We are pleased to announce that the 2015 African of the Year is Gregoire Ahongbonon… who is doing extra-ordinary work in caring for under-privileged people with mental disabilities,” Dr. Salim said.

Ahongbonon founded the St Camille Association based in Cote d’Ivoire, which offers care and  support to people with mental disorders.

Ahongbonon with Leonie (ex patient), her daughter and a patient Photo: St Camille Association
Ahongbonon with Leonie (ex patient), her daughter and a patient Photo: St Camille Association

Ahongbonon says: “My mission is to give dignity back to people with mental disorders, through care, support, and help to reintegrate them back into society. The St Camille Association provides shelter, medical treatment and follow up to people with mental disorders, and helps their social reintegration and rehabilitation through work,” the World Health Organisation reported.

According to Ahongbonon, St Camille Association “runs 12 centres in Côte d’Ivoire and Benin and has helped 2500 people, of whom 1800 have successfully reintegrated into their village of origin. The Association currently serves about 70 000 meals a day with the financial help of European non-governmental organisations”. The organisation has since grown, to include work in Togo.

The award will be presented in Abuja on January 13 2016 and Ahongbonon will receive the prize of US$ 50,000 sponsored by United Bank for Africa.

Previous winners of the award include Dr. Denis Mukwege (Congolese surgeon, 2008), Late Dr. Tajudeen Abdulraheem (Nigerian activist, 2009) and Dr. Danny Jordaan (South African football administrator, 2010), Mrs. Salifou Fatimata Bazeye (Nigerien jurist, 2011), Thabo Mbeki (former South African president, 2012) and Donald Kaberuka (former AfDB president, 2013), This Day Live reported.

Source: This Day Live and World Health Organisation