The Jeel Albena Association for Humanitarian Development, a Yemeni humanitarian organization that has supported tens of thousands of people caught up in the country’s conflict, is the winner of the 2021 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, announced the laureate this Wednesday. Every year, the prize recognizes a person or group, that goes above and beyond the call of duty, to help displaced or stateless people.
In a statement, Mr. Grandi said that “Jeel Albena does this in an extraordinary way helping people on all sides of Yemen’s conflict.”
“Its staff and volunteers have stayed put, working quietly on the ground throughout the conflict, in the face of the harshest adversity, at a time when many others have left,” he said.
Their work, often near the frontlines, has included constructing 18,000 emergency shelters for internally displaced people and their host communities. Their work has also allowed thousands to make a living, and been a vehicle to restore basic human dignity.
Mr. Grandi noted that Jeel Albena’s motto is “By Yemenis, for Yemenis” and that it “exemplifies its spirit of local community action.”
“Always, they seek solutions together with the communities where they are active,” he explained.
Established in June 2017, the association started with only fifteen staff and now has more than 150 employees, over 40 per cent of them, recruited from within displaced communities.
The organization operates in Hudaydah, Hajjah, Al Mahwit and Raymah; four governorates which between them host 25 per cent of all internally displaced people in Yemen.
A personal story
The organization’s founder, Ameen Jubran, will collect the award on behalf of the organization.
Mr. Jubran first started working with displaced people while he was at university and he has never stopped. He was nearly killed in the conflict and, like many of his team, have experienced displacement first-hand.
“But he did not give up. In fact, he says the experience of being forced to flee his home only increased his determination, in the true spirit of Nansen,” Mr. Grandi recalled.
For the High Commissioner, the award “puts a much-needed spotlight on Yemen, a country where the suffering faced by civilians does not receive the attention it deserves.”
Since the beginning of the conflict, four million people have fled their homes in order to find safety. Around 80 percent of those people have been displaced for more than a year, straining their capacity to cope as well as that of their hosts.
“But it’s not just about Jeel Albena,” Mr. Grandi said. “The award also highlights the extraordinary work done by many local NGOs on the ground in Yemen”
Besides the UNHCR, the Nansen Refugee Award is given by a committee led by the Governments of Norway and Switzerland.
“It is my profound hope this award draws international attention to Yemen and that Jeel Albena’s extraordinary work will inspire more action for the people there who have suffered,” concluded the High Comissioner.