Switzerland's Paul Grüninger Foundation has awarded its first-ever prize for outstanding acts of humanity and courage to a woman doctor from Afghanistan. Sima Samar received SFr50,000 ($29,240) in prize money at a ceremony in St Gallen on Friday.
The prize was set up in memory of the former St Gallen police chief, Paul Grüninger, who during the Second World War saved the lives of several hundred Jews and other refugees.
It is awarded to individuals or organisations deemed to have made a significant contribution towards safeguarding the freedom and dignity of others.
In a statement to mark the awarding of the prize, the foundation said Sima Samar had been singled out because of her courageous work towards improving the health and education of women and children in Afghanistan.
Sima Samar, 44, has been living in exile in Pakistan since 1984. From there she oversees a network of hospitals and clinics in Afghanistan managed by her Shuhada organisation. She also runs around 50 schools, providing an education to more than 17,000 boys and girls in the war-torn country.
The Shuhada organisation lists as its main goals the provision of education, health and other developmental services to ordinary people, and the involvement of women in community projects.
Sima Samar, who lost her husband during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, told swissinfo her main motivation was to help the suffering people of her land.
"I think it's easy to just live for yourself," she said in an interview. "I just want to support the people who really suffer."
She added that she derived a great deal of satisfaction from her work, which has often put her at personal risk.
Sima Samar said she was proud to receive the prize. "I feel that my work is recognised by the international community, and that the problem of Afghan women and of society in general is not forgotten.
"I would like to thank the foundation and... the people of Switzerland, and I would like them to continue their support for the people of Afghanistan."