Dr. Evan Atar Adaha of Sudan has been named the winner of the 2018 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award. The prestigious award is given annually to those who go above and beyond the call of duty to protect refugees in the North-Eastern region of South Sudan.
He also provides health services to locals as well as refugees from Sudan's neighbouring Blue Nile State, in the small town of Bunj.
Evan Atar Adaha will be honored for his outstanding 20-year commitment to providing medical services to people forced to flee conflict and persecution in Sudan and South Sudan, as well as to the communities that welcome them, said a UNHCR statement released in Juba on Tuesday.
According to a statement released by the UNHCR, Dr. Atar ran the only functional hospital in Bunj, in the northeastern part of South Sudan where he had served more than 200,000 people, including 144,000 refugees from the Blue Nile State and the local Maban County population of about 53,000.
Atar's team at Maban hospital carries out an average of 58 operations per week in difficult conditions with limited supplies and equipment, it said, adding that there was no provision for general anesthesia, meaning doctors worked with ketamine injections and spinal epidurals.
Dr. Evan Atar Adaha and a patient
"The only X-ray machine is broken; the only surgical theater is lit by a single light, and electricity is provided by generators that often break down. Since it is the only hospital in Upper Nile State, it is often crowded with patients and wards extend into the open air," it read.
South Sudan, the world's youngest nation, gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but its health sector has been negatively affected by over four years of conflict, creating one of Africa's worst refugee emergencies in terms of numbers and the world's third biggest refugee crisis.
About 1.9 million people are displaced internally and another 2.5 million have sought refuge in neighboring countries.
"The crisis in South Sudan has had a devastating impact on millions of people uprooted from their homes, or whose lives have been torn apart by conflict, violence and food insecurity," said Filippo Grandi, the head of the UNHCR, adding that acts of heroism and service to others had emerged amid the tragedy in South Sudan.
Atar's work through decades of civil war and conflict is a shining example of profound humanity and selflessness which has seen thousands of lives, and countless men, women, and children have been provided with a new chance to rebuild a future, he said.
Dr. Evan Atar Adaha
In 1997, the statement said, as war-ravaged Sudan's Blue Nile State, Atar volunteered to work there, establishing his first hospital from scratch in Kurmuk and working at the heart of a large-scale conflict, often under direct aerial bombing.
In 2011, increasing violence forced Atar to pack up his hospital in Sudan's Blue Nile State, fleeing with his staff and as much equipment as he could transport, a journey that took a month, it said.
In 2017, refugees accounted for 71 percent of surgical patients, and Atar's commitment to treating all those in medical need regardless of their background earned him the respect of all refugee and local communities, the statement said.
South Sudan hosts nearly 300,000 refugees, of whom 92 percent are Sudanese from the South Kordofan and the Blue Nile regions close to the South Sudanese border.
The 2018 award ceremony will be held on October 1st in Geneva, Switzerland.
Image(s) Credit: UNHCR and Thomson Reuters Foundation