2021 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award honours Yemeni organisation

Jeel Albena is a community organisation that provides a lifeline to displaced Yemenis. Photo: © UNHCR/Abdulhakeem Obadi

This year, the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award recognises a humanitarian organisation in Northern Yemen that is dedicated to providing shelter and hope to displaced Yemenis during the ongoing conflict.

On Monday 4 October, Ameen Jubran, the founder of the Jeel  Albena  Association for Humanitarian Development, accepted the award on behalf of his organisation.

“What drives me, what gets me to work every morning is the sense of responsibility towards the displaced,” says Ameen.

IKEA co-workers from around the world tuned in to the virtual ceremony hosted by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and supported by the IKEA Foundation and the governments of Norway and Switzerland.

The right to hope

Yemen faces a complex and massive humanitarian crisis. Ongoing conflict has displaced four million Yemenis, devastated the country and fractured its health services and food supplies, leaving 66% of the population dependent on humanitarian aid.

Driven by his own experience of forced displacement, Ameen Jubran established Jeel Albena to support communities affected by the conflict in Yemen’s Hudaydah governorate.

The organisation provides emergency relief, including innovative shelters and other assistance and services to people displaced by the conflict. Its aim is to enable them to increase their self-sufficiency and restore their dignity until they find a durable and dignified solution to their displacement.

“Shelter is the most basic and important need for the displaced,” Jubran explained. “If they have adequate shelter, it protects the family’s dignity, and they are no longer homeless.”    

Jeel Albena employs more than 160 people and is supported by an additional 230 volunteers, many of whom are themselves displaced. It has provided around 18,000 emergency shelters for people who are internally displaced and living in informal sites in the provinces of Hudaydah and Hajjah. 

Empowering communities

Jeel Albena houses families in shelters made from woven khazaf palm fronds, which are more ecologically sustainable and better suited to the harsh local climate than man-made materials. This provides employment to hundreds of displaced people and locals – mostly women – who grow, weave and sell the raw material.

Jeel Albena also runs a community centre in Hudaydah that offers legal assistance, psychological counselling and vocational training to displaced people and the communities that host them.  

Its perseverance, humanitarian spirit and commitment to people forced to flee their homes make Jeel Albena a worthy Laureate of the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award.

With “From Yemeni, for Yemenis” as their slogan, Jeel Albena proactively seeks solutions together with the people affected by the conflict to empower them to change their communities.

“I dream of the day when I see Yemeni society not in need of the help of others, they are standing on their own feet,” says Ameen.

In support of refugees

The IKEA Foundation has been supporting the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award since 2011. Every year, on the day after the ceremony, leaders from IKEA, the IKEA Foundation and UNHCR take part in a workshop to discuss how we can work together to change the lives of refugees.

This year, IKEA leaders also attended a virtual breakfast to meet Ameen and hear more about his story.

Read more about the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award Laureate.