The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that its annual Nansen Refugee Award will go to Alixandra Fazzina, a British photojournalist whose work documents the often overlooked consequences of war.
On learning of the award Fazzina said, “I am overwhelmed and absolutely delighted to have been recognized by UNHCR with this distinguished honour. I have always sought to bring greater attention to those forced to flee conflict, violence and misery. To lose one’s home and have to start a new life is one of the greatest challenges anybody can face, yet millions every year have no other choice.”
Over the past ten years Fazzina has travelled to Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe documenting the lives of the uprooted through powerful and moving photo essays.
Announcing the recipient of this year’s Nansen Award, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres called Fazzina a “fearless humanitarian. By unearthing and so vividly portraying the individual stories of uprooted people she has achieved something remarkable. Her commitment, empathy and devotion to getting to the bottom of every story make her an exemplary chronicler of the world’s most vulnerable people.”
Fazzina began her career as a photojournalist embedded with the British army in Bosnia in 2005. She has since focussed on chronicling the human suffering caused by war. The Nansen award committee praised in particular her coverage of land mine victims in Kosovo, civilians stranded behind enemy lines in Angola, rape as a weapon of war in Sierra Leone, the abuse of children by militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda and refugee situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Between 2006 and 2008 Fazzina chronicled the exodus of migrants and refugees from Somalia as they sought to cross the Gulf of Aden to Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula. Spending extended periods of time with those looking to make the hazardous journey aboard smugglers’ boats; she captured first hand the despair and suffering of people seeking safety and a better life. The result was the book, A Million Shillings – Escape from Somalia to be published in September.
The Nansen Refuge Award is given annually to an individual or organization for outstanding work on behalf of refugees. It includes a $100,000 prize that the winner can donate to a cause of his or her choice. It was created in 1954 in honour of Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian explorer, scientist and the first U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
The Nansen Award Ceremony will take place on 5 October 2010 in Geneva.