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British Photojournalist Wins Prestigious Nansen Award

Shimbiro, Somalia – November 2007 Somali refugees look back anxiously as they try to locate friends and relatives left behind on Shimbiro Beach as they board smugglers’ boats departing for Yemen. Their fate is sealed. Only eleven of the people who took

The U.N. refugee agency has announced British photojournalist, Alixandra Fazzina, is the winner of its annual Nansen Refugee Award. Agency officials say she was chosen for her tireless dedication to uncovering and portraying the overlooked consequences of war.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, calls Fazzina a fearless humanitarian. He praises her vivid portraits of uprooted people; and he says her talent and devotion to getting to the bottom of every story makes her an exemplary chronicler of the world's most vulnerable people.

Alixandra Fazzina
Alixandra Fazzina

Fazzina says winning the award has left her overwhelmed and absolutely delighted by the recognition.

U.N. refugee spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, notes that during the last 10 years, Fazzina has tirelessly documented the plight of the uprooted through moving photo reportages.

She says Fazzina has covered human tragedies often neglected by mainstream media in Eastern Europe, Africa, particularly Somalia, the Middle East and Asia - often without pay.

"For two years, at a time, in Somalia, she received no pay and spent weeks and months on end with people on the run, following them and just feeling so passionate about bringing these untold stories to the rest of the world, " Fleming said. "And, I think the committee wanted to recognize that there are people who are directly helping refugees. But, there are others who, in other ways, more creative ways perhaps, [are] trying to raise awareness and create empathy and impact for these people."

Fazzina spent two years in Somalia chronicling the exodus of migrants and refugees to the Arabian Peninsula and the smuggling business in the Gulf of Aden.

The Nansen committee also has recognized her coverage of land mine victims in Kosovo, of rape as a weapon of war in Sierra Leone, and the refugee situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This is the first time since the Nansen Refugee Award was created in 1954 that a journalist has won this prestigious prize. The award is named for Norwegian explorer and scientist, Fridtjof Nansen, who was the first U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

It is given annually to an individual or organization for outstanding work on behalf of refugees. The award to Fazzina breaks this mold.

Alixandra Fazzina will receive the Nansen Award and $100,000 in prize money in October.