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




UNHCR country pages

Capacity Building

Helping national authorities meet their obligations to the uprooted.


We help refugees, refugee returnees and internally displaced people tap their potential and build a platform for a better future.

The Nansen Refugee Award

The Nansen Refugee Award

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

Nansen Biography

Fridtjof Nansen was a scientist, polar explorer, diplomat, statesman and humanist, with a deep compassion for his fellow human beings. In 1921 Nansen was appointed the League of Nations' first High Commissioner for Refugees and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the following year in recognition of his work for refugees. UNHCR established the Nansen Refugee Award in his honour in 1954.

Nansen Biography

Nansen Award presentation for the late Senator Edward Kennedy

UNHCR's annual Nansen Refugee Award was posthumously awarded to Senator Edward Kennedy at a ceremony in Washington DC on October 29 for his life-long commitment to refugee rights. Kennedy's wife, Victoria, accepted the award on behalf of her late husband. In presenting the award, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, praised the "vision and commitment" of Senator Kennedy in his support for the displaced.

The prize money of US$100,000 will be donated to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, where it will be used to train the next generation of leaders dedicated to the cause of refugee advocacy. The Nansen Award is given to an individual or organization for outstanding work on behalf of refugees. It was created in 1954 in honour of Fridtjof Nansen, Norwegian polar explorer, scientist and the first global High Commissioner for Refugees.

Nansen Award presentation for the late Senator Edward Kennedy

2012 Nansen artists line-up

Singer, songwriter, campaigner, activist, and UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador Annie Lennox, OBE will perform at this year's United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Nansen Refugee Award being held in Geneva on October 1st and broadcast internationally.

The line-up, which also includes classical singer and UNHCR Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador Barbara Hendricks, Swiss star Bastian Baker and 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Madam Leymah Gbowee, will pay tribute to this year's Nansen Refugee Award laureate.

TV presenter Isabelle Kumar will be the Master of Ceremonies on 1st October. The winner of this year's Nansen Refugee Award will be announced in advance of the award ceremony at 10:30 am on September 18 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

2012 Nansen artists line-up

2015 Nansen Award winner Aqeela AsifiPlay video

2015 Nansen Award winner Aqeela Asifi

One of the humanitarian world's most prestigious awards has been given to an Afghan refugee teacher, Aqeela Asifi. Twenty-three years after arriving in Pakistan, her original tent-school is a now permanent building. Asifi's dedication has helped guide more than 1,000 girl students through to the eighth grade - with each student receiving a nationally-endorsed certificate confirming their achievement. Asifi's efforts encouraged more schools to open in the village and now another 1,500 young people (900 girls, 650 boys) are enrolled in six schools throughout the refugee village today.
Nansen Refugee Award: Pope Francis meets Sister AngéliquePlay video

Nansen Refugee Award: Pope Francis meets Sister Angélique

Pope Francis meets and blesses UNHCR's 2013 Nansen Refugee Award winner Sister Angélique Namaika in St Peter's Square, Vatican City.
Nansen Refugee Award: The Global Refugee CrisisPlay video

Nansen Refugee Award: The Global Refugee Crisis

At the 2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award ceremony a moment was taken to reflect on the endless refugee plight.