UNHCR NGO Innovation Award 2020

Refugee-led Organizations in the COVID-19 Response


The UNHCR NGO Innovation Award (“the Award”) celebrates efforts and achievements of NGOs who developed innovative approaches for protection and delivery of services to refugees and other persons of concern to UNHCR.

UNHCR, via this Award, wishes to identify and recognize  new and creative approaches that can result in better protection and delivery of service to refugees and other persons of concern to UNHCR; and amplify the acts of solidarity and innovation in an age of uncertainty and disruption.

The Award 2020

In 2020, the Award has been dedicated to Refugee-led Organizations  and to the novel and creative solutions that have emerged in response to COVID-19 at global, regional, national and local levels.

The pandemic has negatively impacted protection and well-being of persons of concern around the world causing, for instance, loss of access to asylum, freedom of movement, and livelihoods; increased food insecurity; and increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence. Refugees and other persons of concern are among some of the most vulnerable people impacted by the pandemic. Fortunately, in the response, creativity and innovation also have flourished. Many refugee-led organizations, working with persons of concern and host communities, have come up with innovative practices, for instance, reshaping existing livelihood activities to producing protective personal equipment, hosting radio slot talks to distribute correct information about the pandemic amongst refugees, producing plant-based soaps for distribution and utilizing medical/psychosocial consultations via accessible messaging tools.

Winners were selected based on five criteria: 1) The understanding of the challenge or issue at hand, 2) the novelty of the solution, 3) the inclusion of a variety of actors in designing the solution or project, 4) the potential impact and/or the initial findings/results achieved, 5) a clear implementation plan for the Award.


Overview of the winners of the 2020 NGO Innovation Award

Association Vivre Ensemble pour la Citoyenneté et le Développement, Morocco

Vivre Ensemble promotes social cohesion and tolerance between refugees and the host communities in Morocco by organizing activities and cultural events in schools, summer camps, youth clubs and universities across the country. The organization advocates for youth participation, leadership and empowerment, while promoting education, and community building among migrants, refugees and host communities. During the pandemic, the organization assisted hundreds of people, including Moroccans and refugees, with food baskets and rent contribution vouchers, and provided lifesaving information through digital campaigns.

Fruit Basket, South Africa

Fruit Basket advocates for the rights and freedoms as well as the safety and security of LGBTIQ+ migrants, asylum seekers and refugees living in South Africa. The organisation aims at promoting equality and opportunities in a safe and secure environment for LGBTIQ+ persons and groups. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, through online appeals and crowdfunding campaigns, the organisation has responded to some of this community’s most urgent needs (food, rent, medications and health emergencies). In addition to the urgent needs support, the organisation has incorporated a holistic approach ensuring support and a sense of community for LGBTQI+ migrants, asylum seekers and refugees across South Africa during the pandemic and the ensuing isolation that many have experienced, particularly those in marginalised and more vulnerable groups.

Great Step Initiative, Nigeria

Great Step Initiative operates in Adagom Refugee Settlement, Ogoja, in Nigeria’s Cross River State- a state that hosts more than half of the 61,000 refugees who fled Cameroon since 2017. The organization provides psychosocial counselling, and through a volunteer network, raises awareness about COVID-19 risks or prevention among the community. Since the pandemic started, GSI has been conducting sensitization campaigns within the refugee settlement and the host community including in the areas hardest to reach. They use videos and pictures as means of communications; and established several hotlines to answer questions about COVID-19.

Hero2B, Sweden

Hero2B formerly known as Kidnovation, was born from the trauma experienced by Syrian refugees due to war and displacement. Inspired by their encounters with children along the way, the team behind Hero2Be has turned psychological support into innovative and child-friendly tools to engage with refugee children and other vulnerable children to help them overcome challenges. Through entertaining stories, videos, games and interactive learning programs, Hero2Be has been able to adapt to the restrictions associated with the pandemic and increase their online outreach to children and families residing in Sweden, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.

Jóvenes Contra la Violencia, Honduras

Jóvenes Contra la Violencia is an organization created by young leaders from communities most affected by violence and forced displacement in Honduras. They seek to promote a culture of peace, respect for life, and prevention of violence among Honduran youth and children. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization rapidly developed a socioeconomic and psychosocial study with more than 200 participants from vulnerable communities affected by violence and displacement, to identify and target those in need of conflict resolution, support packages and kits to better protect themselves and have access to accurate information.

Refugee Youth Education Hub (RYEH), Kenya

Refugee Youth Education Hub believes in the role of education to promote peace and development in Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya. The organization created  the ‘Dadaab Book Drive’ initiative: a library with over 60,000 books to help refugees stay informed and continue learning during the pandemic, when schools were closed and livelihood activities put on hold. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has been hosting a local radio show to provide refugee and host communities with regular updates and battle a surge of misinformation about the virus.

Roshan Learning Center, Indonesia

Roshan Learning Center provides a safe learning space where refugee children, youth, and adults can experience and share the joy of learning and the power of community in Indonesia. Roshan serves over 200 students from 11 countries through primary and secondary education and English classes. In 2020, Roshan adapted to the challenges posed by COVID-19 by creating a remote support program that blends online classes, home learning packets, and common-tech solutions enabling all of its children and youth to continue learning and stay connected in a time of crisis and isolation.

“Refugees have demonstrated extraordinary solidarity throughout the #COVID19, we are excited to celebrate alongside refugees and recognise their innovative approaches to deliver critical support to vulnerable communities, reaching remote locations.”

UNHCR’s Partnership and Coordination Service