Nansen Refugee Award winner builds primary school in Yemen

News Stories, 10 September 2012

© UNHCR Yemen
Refugee children in Yemen's Kharaz Refugee Camp. The Society for Humanitarian Solidarity won the Nansen Refugee Award last year and has used the prize money to build a school in the camp for 350 refugee children.

KHARAZ REFUGEE CAMP, Yemen, September 10 (UNHCR) The organization that won last year's Nansen Refugee Award for its life-saving rescue work on the coast of Yemen has used the prize money to build a badly needed school for 350 refugee children.

The Society for Humanitarian Solidarity (SHS), has been working since 1995 to assist refugees who often arrive traumatized, dehydrated and malnourished after crossing the high seas from the Horn of Africa. SHS teams patrol the long Yemeni coast, pick up survivors and transport them to reception centres and Kharaz Refugee Camp, where they have now built a primary school to ensure that every child has access to education to reach their potential.

Praising SHS for building Kharaz's second primary school with the US$100,000 cash award that comes with the Nansen Refugee Award, UNHCR Representative in Yemen Naveed Hussain said the agency was "proud to have such a valuable and trusted partner."

The Nansen Refugee Award was created in 1954 and is given annually to an individual or organization for outstanding work on behalf of refugees. It comes with a medal and the cash prize donated by Switzerland and Norway.

Drought, conflict, political instability and human rights violations in the Horn of Africa have led to increasing numbers of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants fleeing in search of safety, protection and economic opportunities. Upon winning the award in 2011, SHS set out to shine a light on the perilous sea journey many take to arrive in Yemen.

Yemen has a strong tradition of hospitality towards refugees and since 1991 has been providing shelter to Somali refugees. The country currently hosts more than 225,000 refugees and so far this year over 56,000 refugees and migrants have arrived on Yemeni shores.

Kharaz Refugee Camp, in Lahj governorate, has more than 19,500 refugees, predominately Somali, and the camp population has been increasing. Many new arrivals from the Horn of Africa have settled in Kharaz as well as refugees who have relocated from urban areas in Yemen because of civil unrest in the country over the last year.

There are some 3,700 students attending primary school in the camp, with an enrolment rate of 86 per cent. The new primary school has six classrooms accommodating 350 children, a room for teachers and bathrooms. The school reduces classroom overcrowding in the lower grades and shortens the distance many young children must walk.

"By contributing the Nansen Refugee Award to the building of this primary school in Kharaz, SHS has filled the hearts of these young students and their parents with happiness," said Nasser Salim Ali al-Hamairy, founder of SHS. "By building this school and locating it near the centre of the camp, we will encourage the parents to send their children to attend classes."

SHS, UNHCR, Save the Children and representatives from the refugee community celebrated the completion of the new school at a recent inauguration ceremony.

"This school is our gift to the refugees and we give thanks to the Nansen Committee for giving us this opportunity," said al-Hamairy. "SHS is committed towards helping those in need wherever they are; this is our moral obligation based on Islamic values and our Yemeni culture."

By Teddy Leposky in Kharaz Refugee Camp, Yemen

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The Nansen Refugee Award

The Nansen Refugee Award

Given to individuals or organizations for outstanding service in the cause of refugees.

2008 Nansen Refugee Award

The UN refugee agency has named the British coordinator of a UN-run mine clearance programme in southern Lebanon and his civilian staff, including almost 1,000 Lebanese mine clearers, as the winners of the 2008 Nansen Refugee Award.

Christopher Clark, a former officer with the British armed forces, became manager of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre-South Lebanon (UNMACC-SL) n 2003. His teams have detected and destroyed tons of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and tens of thousands of mines. This includes almost 145,000 submunitions (bomblets from cluster-bombs) found in southern Lebanon since the five-week war of mid-2006.

Their work helped enable the return home of almost 1 million Lebanese uprooted by the conflict. But there has been a cost – 13 mine clearers have been killed, while a further 38 have suffered cluster-bomb injuries since 2006. Southern Lebanon is once more thriving with life and industry, while the process of reconstruction continues apace thanks, in large part, to the work of the 2008 Nansen Award winners.

2008 Nansen Refugee Award

2007 Nansen Refugee Award

The UN refugee agency's Nansen Awards Committee has named Dr. Katrine Camilleri, a 37-year-old lawyer with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Malta, as the winner of the 2007 Nansen Refugee Award. The Committee was impressed by the political and civic courage she has shown in dealing with the refugee situation in Malta.

Dr. Camilleri first became aware of the plight of refugees as a 16-year-old girl when a priest visited her school to talk about his work. After graduating from the University of Malta in 1994, she began working in a small law firm where she came into contact with refugees. As Dr. Camilleri's interest grew in this humanitarian field, she started to work with the JRS office in Malta in 1997.

Over the last year, JRS and Dr. Camilleri have faced a series of attacks. Nine vehicles belonging to the Jesuits were burned in two separate attacks. And this April, arsonists set fire to both Dr. Camilleri's car and her front door, terrifying her family. The perpetrators were never caught but the attacks shocked Maltese society and drew condemnation from the Government of Malta. Dr. Camilleri continues to lead the JRS Malta legal team as Assistant Director.

2007 Nansen Refugee Award

The Nansen Refugee Award 2005

Burundian humanitarian worker Maggy Barankitse received the 2005 Nansen Refugee Award for her tireless work on behalf of children affected by war, poverty and disease. The Nansen medal was presented at a grand ceremony in Brussels by H.R.H. Princess Mathilde of Belgium and UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Wendy Chamberlin.

Accepting the award, Barankitse said her work was inspired by one single goal: peace. "Accept your fellow man, sit down together, make this world a world of brothers and sisters," she said. "Nothing resists love, that's the message that I want to spread."

Sponsored by UNHCR corporate partner Microsoft, the ceremony and reception at Concert Noble was also attended by Belgium's Minister for Development Co-operation Armand De Decker, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel, renowned Burundian singer Khadja Nin, Congolese refugee and comedian Pie Tshibanda, and French singer and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Julien Clerc. Among others.

The Nansen Refugee Award 2005

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