When Dr. Evan Atar Adaha made the decision to move to Sudan on a humanitarian aid mission in 1997, everybody thought he was crazy. That’s because Sudan was in the middle of a cicil war. The East African country has been in a conflict that split the country into two for decades.
Just last month, the South Sudanese doctor received the U.N. Refugee Agency’s Nansen Refugee Award, an award that is “presented every year to an individual or organization who has dedicated their time going above and beyond the call of duty to help people forcibly displaced from their homes.”
Dr. Adaha works 12-hour shifts, 7 days a week as the head of Maban Referral hospital, the only functioning surgical facility in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State. He studied medicine in Khartoum and was practicing in Egypt when he volunteered to work in Kurmuk, Sudan during the 1997 civil war. The ongoing civil war has displaced approximately 4 million people.
When asked by NPR what drives him to work in these difficult conditions, Dr. Adaha said, “But from the very beginning, I saw these people have nowhere to go. You can’t tell them to go away [and find help elsewhere]. The wars have destroyed other local hospitals, and the people have no resources to drive six hours away to Malakal or to Juba for medical help. If you don’t help them here, they will just go and die at home. I would feel guilty the rest of my life if I left people in this situation.”
Dr. Adaha received the award in part for treating “all those in need of care regardless of their background- a commitment that has earned him the respect of refugee and local people alike. His work shows the difference that one person can make, even when facing incredible odds.”