S. Sudan surgeon wins UN prize for treating refugees

JUBA, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) – A South Sudanese
surgeon has been named the 2018 winner of the Nansen Refugee Award supported by
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

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

The statement said that 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

“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,” said the statement.

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.

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 Blue Nile regions
close to the South Sudanese border.

UNHCR now only has 15 percent of the money
requested to deal with this emergency and provides funding for Atar’s work
through its partner organization, Samaritan’s Purse (SP).

The Nansen Refugee Award honors extraordinary
service to the forcibly displaced. Recent winners include Sister Angelique
Namaika from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zannah Mustapha, a lawyer and
mediator from Borno state in northeastern Nigeria, and the Hellenic Rescue
service and EfiLafsoudi from Pikpa Village on the Island of Lesvos.

The 2018 award ceremony will be held on Oct. 1
in Geneva, Switzerland.


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