By Bird Story Agency
Abdullahi Mire, a former Somali refugee to Kenya, has been awarded the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award 2023, a fete that celebrates individuals, groups, and organizations who go above and beyond the call of duty to protect refugees, displaced and stateless people.
The 36-year-old was celebrated on the sidelines of the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva on Wednesday, the 14th, for his dedication to creating opportunities for young refugees in Kenya through education.
A news release by the UNHCR explains that Mire “has provided crucial learning opportunities to tens of thousands of displaced children and youth at Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps through the Refugee Youth Education Hub, the organization he founded.”
According to UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, Mire is fit for the award because he uses books to show solidarity and as an instrument of hope for his community.
“He was resettled from Kenya, where he was a refugee, to Norway, where he was given other opportunities. But despite going as a refugee to Norway, he returned to Kenya to serve his fellow brothers and sisters, his community of refugees,” he stated during the awarding ceremony.
As a child, Abdullahi was forced to flee the war in Somalia with his family and found safety in the Dadaab refugee camps, where he spent the rest of his childhood. He started his education in the centre before securing a place at Kenyatta University’s Dadaab campus, where he completed his journalism and public relations degree in 2013.
Now a trained journalist, Abdullahi has covered refugee stories for the international media.
However, it is his humanitarian and philanthropic initiatives that stand out.
He founded a refugee-led organization, the Refugee Youth Education Hub (RYEH), 2018 and held its first book drive, dubbed the ‘Dadaab book drive’, in 2019. This initiative successfully raised more than 20,000 books, with which he has established three public libraries in the Dadaab refugee camps, providing a safe study space for refugee students.
Education is a critical need among refugees globally. A 2023 UNHCR education report shows that over half of the world’s nearly 15 million school-aged refugee children remain out of formal education.
In Dadaab, where over half the population of 370,000 refugees and asylum-seekers are children, only 58% attend schools in the camp due to a shortage of books, qualified teachers, and socio-cultural barriers, including early marriage.
Mire, through RYEH, having experienced the extensive education gaps at the camp, has been keen to make an impact. He has rallied volunteers to collect and distribute 100,000 books to children in Dadaab. Besides the three libraries, he distributes educational books to schools across the three camps—Dagahaley, Ifo, and Hagadera.
“Education gave me knowledge, which gave me agency, and together, they gave me the power to make decisions about my future… I work now so that every child displaced by conflict, climate change, or natural disaster has that same opportunity,” he explained when accepting the prize.
Hodan Bashir, one of the student beneficiaries of the books he has donated over the years, is now working as a trainee nurse in the maternity ward at the camp’s main hospital, pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor.
“It all started with that one biology book… I got that book because my brother Abdullahi Mire assisted me … Now I am here, helping the mothers and babies,” she told the UNHCR press team.
Mire’s organization also advocates for the socio-economic inclusion of refugees in Kenya and supports refugee women in the camp to access livelihoods and job opportunities.
The Nansen Refugee Award is named after Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian explorer, scientist, and diplomat. He was the first High Commissioner for Refugees at the League of Nations in 1920. He developed the “Nansen passport” shortly afterwards, which served as an identity document and a travel permit for refugees until 1942.
The annual award was created in 1954 to honour those who have gone above and beyond to help forcibly displaced or stateless people.
“I dedicate this award to every displaced child who, like me, was forced to flee their home. This is to give them hope and a reason to keep dreaming,” he stated at the award ceremony.
The 2023 Global Refugee Forum is held in Geneva, Switzerland, between December 13 and 15.
The award ceremony was graced by Lous and the Yakuza (real name: Marie-Pierre Kakoma), a Rwandan-Congolese refugee artist who lives in Belgium. He performed a song written for the event and its award winners.
bird story agency