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Refugees Magazine Issue 102 (The high cost of caring) - The 1995 Nansen Medal winner

Refugees Magazine, 1 December 1995

Mozambican humanitarian Graca Sabine Machel was awarded the 1995 Nansen Medal for her outstanding contributions on behalf of refugee children.

High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata presented the award, the 35th since 1955, to Machel at a ceremony on 20 October in Geneva.

"No country better reflects the hope of peace and reconciliation, nor the arduous task of reconstruction and rehabilitation, than Mozambique, where over 1.5 million refugees have returned home recently," Ogata said, in presenting the award. "No woman better symbolizes the courage and commitment to rebuilding the war-torn society to which the refugees have returned than Graca Sabine Machel."

Ogata noted that Machel was only the second African woman to receive the award since it began in 1955.

Machel, an activist and humanitarian since her student days in Portugal, was involved in Mozambique's liberation movement and, at the age of 29, was appointed state secretary for education in the post-independence government. She was the only woman in the Cabinet, and held the education portfolio until 1989. In 1975, she married Samora Machel, the first president of Mozambique.

Since her husband's death in a plane crash in October 1986, Machel has worked tirelessly for the development of Mozambique, overseeing efforts to provide universal education for all children and promoting peace and reconciliation in her war-torn homeland.

She is currently chairperson of an unprecedented United Nations study on the impact of armed conflict on children. The study, aimed at finding effective measures for the promotion and protection of the rights of child victims of armed conflict, is providing new insights into the plight of refugee children.

"For children, the deepest scars of war and flight are the hidden ones," Machel said in her acceptance speech. "Childhood years that can never be recaptured; the chance of education and full development lost in the struggle for survival in a refugee camp or settlement, now gone forever; the experience of dangers endured during flight, of rape or torture or forced conscription, cutting deep into the psyche of children."

The Nansen Medal is named after Norwegian diplomat and explorer Fridtjof Nansen, the first High Commissioner for Refugees under the League of Nations. It was created to focus attention on refugees and to give new impetus to the need for international support for the uprooted.

The Nansen Committee, which is chaired by the High Commissioner, is composed of members designated by the governments of Norway and Switzerland, and of representatives from the Council of Europe and the International Council of Voluntary Agencies.

Source: Refugees Magazine Issue 102 (1995)




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Almost half the people of concern to UNHCR are children. They need special care.

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Refworld – Children

This Special Feature on Child Protection is a comprehensive source of relevant legal and policy documents, practical tools and links to related websites.

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

UNHCR aims to help 25,000 refugee children go to school in Syria by providing financial assistance to families and donating school uniforms and supplies.

There are some 1.4 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, most having fled the extreme sectarian violence sparked by the bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra in 2006.

Many Iraqi refugee parents regard education as a top priority, equal in importance to security. While in Iraq, violence and displacement made it difficult for refugee children to attend school with any regularity and many fell behind. Although education is free in Syria, fees associated with uniforms, supplies and transportation make attending school impossible. And far too many refugee children have to work to support their families instead of attending school.

To encourage poor Iraqi families to register their children, UNHCR plans to provide financial assistance to at least 25,000 school-age children, and to provide uniforms, books and school supplies to Iraqi refugees registered with UNHCR. The agency will also advise refugees of their right to send their children to school, and will support NGO programmes for working children.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

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Since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011, more than 2 million people have fled the violence. Many have made their way to European Union countries, finding sanctuary in places like Germany and Sweden. Others are venturing into Europe by way of Bulgaria, where the authorities struggle to accommodate and care for some 8,000 asylum-seekers, many of whom are Syrian. More than 1,000 of these desperate people, including 300 children, languish in an overcrowded camp in the town of Harmanli, 50 kilometres from the Turkish-Bulgarian border. These people crossed the border in the hope of starting a new life in Europe. Some have travelled in family groups; many have come alone with dreams of reuniting in Europe with loved ones; and still others are unaccompanied children. The sheer number of people in Harmanli is taxing the ability of officials to process them, let alone shelter and feed them. This photo essay explores the daily challenges of life in Harmanli.

The Children of Harmanli Face a Bleak Winter

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In Iraq, about 100,000 of the 143,000 Syrian refugees are believed to be living in urban areas - some 40 per cent of them are children aged under 18 years. The following photographs, taken in the northern city of Erbil by Brian Sokol, give a glimpse into the lives of some of these young urban refugees. They show the harshness of daily life as well as the resilience, adaptability and spirit of young people whose lives have been overturned in the past two years.

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Greece: The Refugees' Grandmother in Idomeni

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Greece: Health risk to refugee children in IdomeniPlay video

Greece: Health risk to refugee children in Idomeni

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Syria: Homs war children find home in abandoned hotelPlay video

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