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Yemeni humanitarian organisation wins UN refugee award

Displaced Yemenis collect food aid in Sana’a, June 2021. (Credit: Keystone/EPA/YAHYA ARHAB)

A Yemeni humanitarian organisation that has provided a lifeline to tens of thousands of people displaced by the country’s long-running conflict has won the prestigious UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award.

The Jeel Albena Association for Humanitarian Development was honoured for supporting displaced Yemenis. Its founder Ameen Jubran has himself been displaced by the conflict.

“The areas where we work are considered to be among the most impoverished, and also the most dangerous,” Jubran said following the announcement. “We felt the danger every day but, despite that, we had displaced people and others who needed our help. We couldn’t just leave them behind without providing them with assistance.”

Yemen is facing one of the world's worst humanitarian crises after seven years of war. Four million people have fled their homes and are in dire need of protection and assistance, and 16 million Yemenis are facing acute food insecurity and starvation.

Founded in 2017, Jeel Albena employs more than 160 people and is supported by an additional 230 volunteers, many of whom are displaced. Based in the Red Sea port city of Hudaydah, it has provided jobs and around 18,000 emergency shelters for people who are internally displaced and living in informal sites in the provinces of Hudaydah and Hajjah.

The organisation also supports displaced women to become self-sufficient and renovates schools, benefiting both the local community and displaced populations.

“The extraordinary work carried out by you and your team, and your perseverance in helping Yemenis from all backgrounds, is an example of humanity, compassion and dedication,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, speaking of Jubran.

The award, which was established in 1954 to honor individuals, groups of organisations for protecting refugees, displaced and stateless people, also selects five regional winners each year.

This year’s recipients were; Jorge Santiago Ávila Corrales, a Honduran social worker honoured for his work to combat gang violence; Nikola Kovačević, a Serbian human rights lawyer who advocates for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers in the Balkans; Doctor Saleema Rehman, for her courage and dedication during the Covid-19 pandemic and in the promotion of g’education; and Roukiatou Maiga and Chief Diambendi Madiega, both from Burkina Faso, who have been advocating for the rights of people internally displaced by conflict.