GENEVA - This year's winner of the U.N. refugee agency's prestigious Nansen Award is South Sudanese surgeon Evan Atar Adaha. He is being honored for two decades of life-saving medical work on behalf of thousands of refugees and internally displaced.
Adaha gave up a relatively comfortable life as a surgeon in Egypt to dedicate the past 20 years to helping thousands of people victimized by war and persecution in Sudan and South Sudan.
His services have never been more in demand, as South Sudan's civil war, which is in its fifth year, has forced nearly 4.4 million people to flee their homes as refugees or internally displaced.
He runs the only functional hospital in northeastern South Sudan, serving in the town of Bunj.
Adaha says he treats everyone, regardless of who they are. He adds he is most happy when his work has saved somebody from suffering or has saved a life.
UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told VOA that Adaha's hospital is surrounded by an active conflict zone. He said the doctor works under very difficult and dangerous conditions providing medical services to a desperate population.
"The only line of defense he has is his reputation and his humanitarian work. Luckily, so far, his work has been respected by all sides. His clinic is open for all sides, whoever needs his assistance," he said.
According to Baloch, Adaha's team carries out an average of 58 operations per week in difficult conditions with limited supplies and equipment. He said the doctor is on call at all hours and is known to sleep only one hour a day on occasion.
He said Adaha's personal sacrifice to his mission is huge. He says the South Sudanese surgeon lives in a canvas tent near the hospital and visits his family in Nairobi, Kenya three times a year.
The Nansen award is named after Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat, humanitarian and Nobel Peace Laureate Fridtjof Nansen.
It recognizes individuals who go beyond the call of duty in pursuit of humanitarian work. The award includes a commemorative medal and a $150,000 prize.