Photographers' Blog

The children of Dadaab: Life through the lens

Through my video “The children of Dadaab: Life through the Lens” I wanted to tell the story of the Somali children living in Kenya’s Dadaab. Living in the world’s largest refugee camp, they are the ones bearing the brunt of Africa’s worst famine in sixty years.

I wanted to see if I could tell their story through a different lens, showing their daily lives instead of just glaring down at their ribbed bodies and swollen eyes.

It was a challenging project. As one senior photographer asked, how else can we tell the story without showing images that clearly illustrate the plight of the starving millions? Few photographs cover all aspects of life in the camps.

Many of Dadaab’s children are dying. And then there are others who, despite living in the world’s oldest refugee camp, embrace their childhood; they play, go to school, care for their siblings and collect water for their families. I wanted to incorporate all of these aspects of life for Dadaab’s children into this project.

To tell the story, I combined Reuters photography captured during the height of the famine with footage I had collected when I was in Dadaab six months ago, before the severity of the crisis hit international headlines.

Nurse of the Mediterranean

Ever since the Libyan uprising began last February, the small Mediterranean island of Malta which I call home has been a vital cog in the vast humanitarian machine in operation. It started as an evacuation hub for thousands of people and then became a critical transit point for humanitarian aid. Several months later, Malta continues to play its part.

I got the call to head to Malta’s international airport VIP lounge around lunchtime, to photograph Shwejga Mullah arriving on the island for medical treatment. Shwejga Mullah is the Ethiopian nanny who was recently discovered weak and alone in the home abandoned by deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son Hannibal. It’s been reported that Hannibal’s wife Aline threw boiling water over her, causing horrific scald burns and scars, when she did not stop his daughter from crying and refused to beat the child.

As she was being brought over in a private plane chartered by the Maltese government, there wasn’t going to be any need to shoot on a long lens from outside the airport perimeter fence. The government officials wanted to show the world that Malta was still playing a crucial humanitarian role in the Libya crisis. We would be allowed right up to the foot of the stairs of the aircraft, so just 2 camera bodies, one with a 70-200mm lens and the other with a wide angle would be necessary. This was what all the other photographers were doing.

from Africa News blog:

PHOTOBLOG: Children in Kenya and Haiti forced to grow up fast, if they survive

I had a flashback the other day when I was looking at photographs from Haiti of 15-year-old Fabianne Geismar, shot dead in the head after stealing wall hangings from a Port-au-Prince store, crushed in the Jan. 12 earthquake.

The image of Fabianne sprawled on the ground, blood trailing over the paintings she'd grabbed, took me back to my own childhood in Nairobi and the sight of a 7- or 8-year-old-boy - probably the same age as me at the time - who was caught stealing sweets from a street vendor and was beaten and burnt with rubber tyres. They called it mob justice.

REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

To this day, I'll never understand why that poor boy had to die such a violent and senseless death for something so trivial. I feel the same way about Fabianne - she survived one of the most catastrophic events in living memory, only to be shot in the head for petty theft. And for stealing wall hangings where there are no walls.

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