Regelmatig word ik in de stad of op het station aangesproken door jongeren in felgekleurde jassen en een grote map in de hand. Dat kan twee dingen betekenen: óf ze proberen me een of ander abonnement aan te smeren, óf ze vragen me om donateur te worden voor een goed doel. In het eerste geval kan ik de in het geel of rood gehulde persoon nog gemakkelijk afschudden, maar in het tweede geval vind ik dat toch altijd een stuk lastiger. Vanuit thuis steunen we al een aantal goede doelen, waaronder het Wereld Natuur Fonds, Greenpeace, Oxfam Novib en War Child. Je moet qua maandelijkse donaties dus nu eenmaal ergens een grens trekken. In collectebussen gooi ik daarentegen wel nog altijd een aantal muntjes, maar verder moet ik de donateurwervers helaas teleurstellen.
Een mooie actie vind ik altijd de Unicef Photo of the Year Award. Foto’s van schrijnende gevallen, maar ook afbeeldingen die je hart verwarmen. Daarom, op deze sneeuwvrije tweede Kerstdag, de winnende foto’s van 2000 tot 2011 even op een rijtje. En bedenk je dan even hoe goed je het zelf hebt, alsjeblieft. Dank u.
2000 – Matias Costa, ‘’Country of the lost children’’
The portrait of a street child in the Rwandan capital city of Kigali as a metaphor for the continuous violence and war in Africa. The photographer Matias Costa (Spain) received the First Prize which is awarded for the first time by UNICEF Germany. ‘’The photo makes the open wounds in the body and the soul of the boy visible”, justifies the jury.
2001 – Meredith Davenport, ‘’Siviani on the sofa’’
Photographer Meredith Davenport illustrates her encounter with the handicapped nine-year old boy Siviani from Costa Rica. “This portrait is not meant to arouse pity but rather to reflect Siviani’s independent personality. I have experienced Siviani as a person that expresses his ideas and wishes in his very own way”, explained the photographer.
“The photo irritates the spectator as he cannot immediately identify the situation the child is living in. Thus, the photo generates a sort of tension, it causes reflection and challenges questions on the personality and the situation the boy illustrated is living in”, explained the jury chairman Klaus Honnef Phd. Meredith Davenport’s photos show the everyday life of physically and mentally handicapped children and their families in a village about 50 kilometers north-east of Costa Rica’s capital of San José. Doctors and scientists assign the children’s handicap to the use of pesticides on banana plantations. The children’s parents have been exposed to pesticides for years during their work. When taking care of their children they are hardly or only insufficiently supported.
2002 – Jan Grarup, ‘’Forgotten Refugees of the World’’
Photographer Jan Grarup took this award-winning picture in June 2002 near the border between Liberia and Sierra Leone. It is part of a photo series on children who fled their homeland Liberia to escape the civil war. One picture shows them begging for border passes to get across to a refugee camp in Sierra Leone. Through an opening in the wall, the hands of children seem to be grasping at a void.According to United Nations estimates, some 200.000 people in Libereria were fleeing from marauding soldiers who have been terrorizing the population after the war erupted again in 2002. Approximately 125.000 people sought refuge in neighboring Sierra Leone. UNICEF maintained in 2002 an aid program – also with the support of the German Federal Government – for more than 50.000 people in four refugee camps.
2003 – Don Bartletti, ‘’Bound to El Norte’’
Enrique is five when his mother leaves him. She wants to go to the US to earn money. Eleven years long the boy in Honduras waits for her return. Then he sets out to look for her, alone, with no money, his life in danger. An odyssey of over 19.000 kilometers begins, riding on top of northbound freight trains. The boy endures hunger, is chased by police and by bandits. Enrique is one of thousands of children who take off every year from Central America to head up north. Only a few are lucky. Many keep trying again and again. Photographer Don Bartletti travelled with these children in the footsteps of Enrique and documented their experiences.
2004 – Marcus Bleasdale, ‘’Darfur in Flames’’
Exhausted, desperate: A child waits with her mother in Disa, in the Northern Sudanese province of Darfour.
Displaced by recent conflicts her village has been burned down. It is estimated that there are 800.000 displaced people in Darfour who are trapped on the East, West and South by government troops and in the North by the desert wasteland, which will certainly claim the lives of weaker family members and of their livestock. UN consider the situation in Da r fur the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. The Khartoum Government is responsible for systematic killings in the region. More than 200 ,000 people escaped across the border to Chad.
2005 – David Gillanders, ‘’Street children in Odessa’’
13 year old Yana finds her way from Moldova to the Ukraine. Her father, an alcoholic, died early; her mother was sent to jail when Yana was eight years old. Since, she has been living on the street, recently in Odessa. By injecting drugs, she gets infected with the HI-Virus. During Christmas 2004, she feels very sick, crawls into a hole and dies in the winter cold.
The Scottish photographer David John Gillanders is working on a project about street children in Odessa since three years. His attention is directed towards a lost generation: Children who grow up without parental protection in the States of the former Soviet Union. Hundreds of thousands of them are homeless. They wash cars, collect bottles or sell stolen goods. Many of them work as prostitutes or take drugs. More and more kids continue to become infected with HIV.
2006 – Jan Grarup, ‘’The Kashmir Earthquake’’
The five year old Rahila is all smiles. She is a patient of the Red Cross Hospital in the northern Pakistani city of Muzaffarabad. An extension bandage covers her legs because she broke her lower leg and thigh during the devastating earthquake of 10/8/2005. But nevertheless she is all smiles, as if she was perfectly fine.
Three weeks after the earthquake Danish photographer Jan Grarup traveled to Pakistan. He took a flight to Muzaffarabad, the capital of the Pakistani part of Kashmir. The earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale almost completely destroyed the city. More than 70,000 inhabitants of the Kashmir region died in the earthquake, 18,000 of which were children. 3.3 million Kashmiris lost their homes and after one full year 30,000 people are said to still live in emergency camps.
Rahila was one of many gravely injured girls and boys in the children’s department of the local hospital. The doctors covered her multiple fractured legs with an extension bandage. In order to give her medical treatment she had to be evacuated by helicopter from her village. The flight that saved Rahila’s life took half an hour.
“I was so impressed by her smile amidst all the grief and despair”, says Grarup, a second time winner of the UNICEF award. “The little girl is living proof of the strength that lies in children.”
2007 – Stephanie Sinclair, ‘’Child brides’’
He’s forty, she’s eleven. And they are a couple – the Afghan man Mohammed F.* and the child Ghulam H.*. “We needed the money”, Ghulam’s parents said. Faiz claims he is going to send her to school. But the women of Damarda village in Afghanistan’s Ghor province know better: “Our men don’t want educated women.” They predict that Ghulam will be married within a few weeks after her engagement in 2006, so as to bear children for Faiz.
During her stay in Afghanistan, it consistently struck American photographer Stephanie Sinclair how many young girls are married to much older men. She decided to raise awareness about this topic with her pictures. Particularly as the official minimum age for brides in Afghanistan is sixteen and it is therefore illegal to marry children.
Early marriages are not only a problem in Afghanistan: worldwide there are about 51 million girls aged between 15 and 19 years who are forced into marriage. The youngest brides live in the Indian state of Rajasthan, where 15% of all wives are not even 10 years old when they are married. Child marriages are a reaction to extreme poverty and mainly take place in Asian and African regions where poor families see their daughters as a burden and as second-class citizens. Already in their younger years, girls are given into the “care” of a husband, a tradition that often leads to exploitation. Many girls become victims of domestic violence. In an Egyptian survey, about one-third of the interviewed child brides stated that they were beaten by their husbands. The young brides are under pressure to prove their fertility as soon as possible. But the risk for girls between the ages of 10 and 14 not to survive pregnancy is five times higher than for adult women. Every year, about 150,000 pregnant teenagers die due to complications – in particular due to a lack of medical care, let alone sex education.
2008 – Alice Smeets, ‘’Surviving in Haiti’’
For five hundred years misfortune and terror have reigned in Haiti. First it was colonialism and slavery, then came the dictators. After that followed chronic political instability and hurricanes. And throughout all that: hardship, distrust, treachery, poverty, dirt, destruction, illness, tyranny, oppression, persecution, death.
People live unprotected in stinking and burning waste, without work, without reliable sources of energy, without drinkable water, without clean air to breath, without money for their next meal. In the hovels the poorest of the poor resort to eating dirt simply to fill their stomachs. In a setting like this, a little girl in a white dress seems to be a frightened angel that finds itself in the underworld and nevertheless determined to fight for a little bit of beauty.
Alice Smeets says: “ I am often asked why I always want to keep returning to Haiti instead of discovering new countries. Everyone has a choice in life. Philip Jones Griffith (photographer for the Magnum Agency, who passed away in 2008) taught me something important during my time as his assistant: photographers can either report on a a wide range of situations in a cursory fashion, or they can carry out a deep and intensive examination of just one setting. Both are options, but the latter gives you the opportunity to continuously create visual statements that can hopefully lead to assistance for those suffering.
2009 – Johan Bävman, ‘’Albino – In the shadow of the sun‘’
Ten-year-old Selina is one of about 150,000 albinos in Tanzania. Her body does not produce enough melanin. Her skin, hair and eyes therefore need special protection against the sun. Many people with albinism suffer from skin cancer or severe visual impairment. Their average life expectancy in countries such as Tanzania is 30 years. Due to the light color of their skin, they are stared at, ridiculed and ostracized. They are called “zeru zeru” – the children of the devil. The boarding school in Mwanza, Northern Tanzania, where the UNICEF Photo of the Year was taken, is surrounded by a 2m fence. Originally built for visually impaired children, the school has become a sanctuary for more than 100 albino children. Here they are protected by the police who patrol the area also at night. This became necessary since albinos in the region near Lake Victoria became target of unprecedented brutality about three years ago. They are mutilated and killed because their body parts are traditionally regarded and sold as talismans. Superstitious locals think they will help them to catch more fish in Lake Victoria or find gold and diamonds. According to official sources, more than 40 albinos have been murdered in Tanzania; the real numbers are likely to be higher, as many cases go unreported. Meanwhile the government started taking stronger action and it now looks as if violence against albinos is declining.
2010 – Ed Kashi, ‘’Vietnam: de legacy of war‘’
The Vietnam war ended in 1975. The US withdrew their troops and north and south Vietnam were reunited. But for the Vietnamese people the legacy of American warfare continues. US forces used the herbicide Agent Orange to destroy foliage that the north Vietnamese were using as cover. Agent Orange contains dioxins that are known to cause cancer and damage genes. The effects of the toxic substance can be seen among Vietnamese people to this day, such as cancer, immune disorders and severe deformities. According to official estimates, 1.2 million children, including nine-year-old Nguyen Thi Ly, are disabled. In rural areas, the percentage of disabled children is significantly higher than in urban areas.
2011 – Kai Löffelbein, ‘’Waste export to Africa‘’
We are used to collecting waste paper, bottles etc. and bringing old or broken electrical appliances to recycling depots or back to the producer. By doing this we feel that we are managing our resources sensibly. (Although it might not really be very sensible to keep buying new things all the time.) But it is often unclear, despite legal bans, where our appliances really go. According to estimates by the UN, about 100,000 tons of e-waste, for example, is exported from Germany to Africa each year.
‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ is what the locals call the toxic waste dump, Agbogbloshie, in Ghana’s capital, Accra. It’s where children and adolescents dismantle computers, mobile phones, TV sets and other devices and burn the electronics for any valuable metals. Noxious fumes fill the air; lead, cadmium, zinc, chrome, nickel and other chemical substances are emitted and damage the health of all who inhale them: headaches, dizziness, skin rashes and damage to the nervous system are the result. Not to mention the highly toxic residue that contaminates the soil.