Musical performance, during the Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support 2017 Ceremony at Al Qasimia University, Sharjah. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News


The first edition of the Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support was presented to the Sustainable Development Foundation (SDF) from Yemen on Sunday.

His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, gave away the award to SDF director Asia Al Mashraqi at a ceremony at Al Qasimia University. She thanked Dr Shaikh Sultan and Shaikha Jawaher Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, wife of Dr Shaikh Sultan, who is also the patron of the award.

The award is organised by Sharjah’s The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) — which is chaired by Shaikha Jawaher — in collaboration with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).

It aims to recognise those who have made distinguished humanitarian efforts for refugees and displaced families in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

SDF is a NGO in Yemen that has provided shelter, education, funds, and other forms of support to displaced persons and victims of conflict in Yemen, as well as to refugees from other disturbed regions in the Middle East and Africa who have fled to Yemen. The SDF will receive $100,000 (around Dh367,000) to help it continue its humanitarian work. Al Mashraqi said the cash prize will restore hope to some patients with kidney failure in Yemen through the purchase of dialysis units.

According to the UNHCR, 18.8 million Yemenis are now in need of humanitarian assistance. The fighting in Yemen has significantly worsened the situation caused by years of poverty and insecurity, it says.

Dr Shaikh Sultan said the need for humanitarian work — and the need to recognise such efforts — is greater than ever in “a world torn by conflict”, especially in the Arab region, where multiple countries are facing a humanitarian crisis. He added that the award would encourage more humanitarian work.

“Of the 65 million people who have been uprooted across the globe, about one-third are under 18 years of age and half have moved to places of safety within their own countries. More than 25 million people have been displaced from Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Palestine, and Libya among others with five million of these having refugee status,” Dr Shaikh Sultan said.

“We are gathered here today to support [TBHF] in its first edition of [the award], which has been won by [SDF]. The foundation has provided health care, education and a safe environment to more than two million displaced Yemenis who are in urgent need of help.”

Shaikha Jawaher said the award “honours humanitarian effort. “We hope this will further motivate individuals and organisations who work with refugees. The award also is in keeping with the vision and instructions of [Dr Shaikh Sultan], which stresses the need for humanitarian solidarity and calls to entrench the values of goodness, love and peace in our society as well as building a secure and brighter future for all.”


Al Mashraqi said the award will inspire SDF and other organisations to ramp up support for refugees. She told Gulf News that SDF is providing care to affected children in Yemen, be they Yemenis displaced within their country or arrivals from other strife-torn nations such as Somalia, Iraq or Syria, among others.

“The confluence of refugees is putting extra pressure on the well-being of children; that is why we are closely paying attention to the children. Some of them are orphans. We find a ‘new family’ that will give them a place of safety and peace and we support these families through various ways,” Al Mashraqi said.

Alya Al Musaiebi, senior media coordinator at TBHF, told Gulf News the award’s criteria included the innovation and impact of the nominees.

“The SDF didn’t just focus their work on urban population, which are easier to reach, but also looked after people in rural Yemen and people with disabilities, who are more vulnerable. SDF also incorporated the SDGs [UN Sustainable Development Goals] and used technology such as solar energy,” Al Musaiebi said.

Deepening crisis

She pointed out that the fact that SDF was active inside Yemen was another factor considered by the award committee.

“Yemen is fast becoming one of the biggest — if not the biggest — humanitarian problem in the region. Eighty per cent of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance, but the funding doesn’t cover what is needed in Yemen, the UNHCR says. “And it’s only getting worse.”

Raising awareness

Kelly T. Clements, UNHCR deputy high commissioner, said the UAE is at the forefront of the global response to humanitarian crises. She added that the award and the Year of Giving initiative of the UAE comes at a time when solidarity with refugees is direly needed.

Clements expressed her deep appreciation to Dr Shaikh Sultan and Shaikh Jawaher, who is a UN eminent advocate for refugees. She said the “plight of refugees has sadly become a feature of these times … with people compelled to leave their homes and left struggling without prospects to rebuild their lives”.

Clements added that the award will raise awareness about the humanitarian situation in many countries and highlight the work of NGOs and volunteers in providing assistance to affected people.


Yemen emergency

18.8 million Yemenis need humanitarian assistance

2 million people displaced across Yemen

183,483 have fled to neighbouring countries

279,480 people seeking refuge in Yemen, mainly having fled the Horn of Africa

Source: UNHCR