Dr. Evan Atar Adaha, who runs a hospital in Bunj in the north-eastern part of  South Sudan is this year’s winner of the UNCHR Nansen Refugee Award. Dr Atar, a surgeon and medical doctor was honoured at a ceremony in Geneva for “his outstanding 20-year commitment in providing medical services to people forced to flee conflict and persecution in Sudan and South Sudan.” Dr. Atar runs the only functional hospital in Upper Nile State.

The South Sudanese doctor won the award for his 20-year commitment to providing medical services to people forced to flee conflict and persecution in Sudan and South Sudan.  In his acceptance speech, Dr. Atar called for a continuous search for peace in Africa and in South Sudan. “The world has to continue searching for peace so that we have a better place for all of us to live, and in harmony,” he said.

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The U.N says, close to 80 aid workers have been killed in South Sudan since the beginning of the conflict in December 2013. Cartoon: Damien Glez

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Dr. Atar dedicated the award to his team in Bunj, Maban County, in South Sudan where he has provided medical services to over 200,000 people. According to UNHCR, Dr. Atar and his team carry out 58 operations per week on the average treating close to 144,000 refugees from the Blue Nile state.

With limited medical provisions, and electricity supplied by generators, Dr. Atar has managed to keep the only hospital in Upper Nile State running.

Dr. Atar treats all those in need of care regardless of their background – a commitment that has earned him the respect of refugee and local people alike His work shows the difference that one person can make, even when facing incredible odds, UNHCR said.

Dr. Evan Atar Adaha winner of the 2018 #Nansen Refugee Award. Photo: Screengrab/UNHCR Live video

The Nansen Refugee Award is named after Fridtjof Nansen, the first High Commissioner for Refugees for the League of Nations. The award is presented every year to an individual or organisation who has dedicated their time beyond the call of duty to help people forcibly displaced from their homes. Dr. Atar’s 20 years commitment to providing medical services to refugees was duly rewarded.

Previous winners from Africa

Recent winners of the award from Africa include, Nigeria’s Zannah Mustapha, a champion for the rights of displaced children, who won the award last year,  Angélique Namaika from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who won the award in 2012, and Hawa Aden Mohamed, a social activist from Somalia who received the award in 2010 for her work with the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development.

Previous winners also include Marguerite Barankitse (Burundi) 2005, former President of Botwana Seretse Khama, (1978), former President of Tanzania Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, (1983), humanitarian, and social activist Graça Machel, former First Lady  Mozambique, (1995) and  Marguerite Barankitse (Burundi) who received the award in 2005.