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South Sudanese doctor wins UN's Nansen award

Dr Atar Atahi with the newborn baby of a refugee from Sudan in the maternity ward of the Bunj Hospital (also known as the Maban County Hospital) in the town of Bunj, Maban County, South Sudan. The hospital conducts between fifteen to twenty caesarean section delivery procedures each week in one of the most isolated and insecure areas of the country.

A South Sudanese doctor, who runs an overcrowded hospital with a dimly-lit surgical theatre and no regular supply of general anaesthetics, has won the UN refugee agency's prestigious Nansen award.

News24 reports that Evan Atar Adaha's Maban hospital in the South Sudanese town of Bunj serves more than 144,000 refugees from Blue Nile state in neighbouring Sudan. The hospital's X-ray machine is broken, but Atar and his team perform nearly 60 surgeries per week in a room with just one light, with staff using "ketamine injections and spinal epidurals" instead of general anaesthesia, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said. UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said Atar's "profound humanity and selflessness" had saved thousands of lives.

The report says Atar had previously run a hospital in Blue Nile but was forced to relocate when a conflict erupted there in 2011 between the Khartoum government and rebel fighters. Khartoum unilaterally announced a ceasefire in the area in March.

The Nansen prize, awarded annually, is named for Norwegian polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen, who served as the first high commissioner for refugees during the failed League of Nations.

The report says last year's winner was Nigerian Zannah Mustapha, who helped negotiate the release of some of the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamists from their school in Chibok in 2014.

UNHCR said actor and goodwill ambassador Cate Blanchett will deliver the keynote address at the ceremony in Geneva next week.

[link url=""]News24 report[/link]

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