Dr. Evan Atar Adaha won the 2018 Nansen Refugee Award from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Switzerland on Monday — and Cate Blanchett, a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, was on hand to honor him.
Atar, a South Sudanese surgeon who has experienced displacement himself, won the award for offering medical care to people escaping from strife in Sudan and South Sudan for two decades, according to a press release.
He operates a hospital for 200,000 people in Bunj in South Sudan, including 144,000 refugees from Sudan’s Blue Nile State.
Blanchett raved about his work in her keynote address. “The award tonight marks a great humanitarian achievement,” she said. “It is a formalized way of saying ‘thank you’ to one person specifically, but perhaps most importantly, it carries with it the inexpressible thanks to all who work in humanitarian fields — often at great personal cost.”
She continued, “Across the globe, hope comes with these individuals who dedicate their lives to the service of refugees and the internally displaced. Hope is embodied in the field workers and the volunteers, like our Nansen laureate tonight.”
“In these people we have not just the ground force but the beating heart and moral impulse to achieve change,” Blanchett added.
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As he accepted the award, which once went to Eleanor Roosevelt, Atar said, “I am so humbled to receive this award … but the award is actually for my team back in Maban.”
“We need peace in that country, a true peace that comes out of our heart,” he declared. “The world has to continue searching for peace, so that we’ll have a better place for all of us to live and in harmony.”
Sitar player Anoushka Shankar, Syrian ballet dancer Ahmad Joudeh and Norwegian singer Sigrid performed at the event, which South African actress Nomzamo Mbatha hosted. Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, presented the award.