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Nansen Refugee Award winner builds primary school in Yemen
News Stories, 10 September 2012
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