From the photographer: working in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai

- Philip Hatcher-Moore

Make shift houses built in the wake of Cyclone Idai, in Beira, Mozambique (Photo: Phil Hatcher-Moore / Arete / Team Rubicon UK)

The immigration official at Maputo International Airport looked over my visa form, and asked me what sort of trucks I was visiting in Beira. I had written down “TRUK” on the form — the acronym for Team Rubicon UK — and she seemed mildly amused, or confused, that I would have travelled all this way to look at some beaten up wagons. It transpired that her misunderstanding would be rather prescient; 24 hours later I was sat in the cab of a dumper truck, loaded to the hilt with several tonnes of humanitarian aid, rumbling from Beira to the interior through the night.

I was in Mozambique to document recovery efforts after Cyclone Idai ravaged the region in mid-March, travelling with Team Rubicon UK, a charity comprising volunteers, many of whom are ex-military. It was soon evident that their approach was drastically different from many of the larger charities working there, from the military nomenclature imbued in their operation, to their idea of “comfort” in the field. I split my time in Mozambique between their two, four-person “strike-teams”, which were charged with delivering aid to isolated communities.

I had worked on the aftermath of the cyclone in Zimbabwe and Malawi several weeks previously, but it was Mozambique that had borne the brunt of Idai’s rage. Further north Cyclone Kenneth had just battered the country for a second time. Country-wide, some 1.85 million people have been affected by the cyclones, according to UNICEF. In its wake, Idai has brought a cholera outbreak, and cases of malaria have risen sharply, with more than 25,000 cases reported so far.

Storm damage in the village of Gaubolene (Photo: Phil Hatcher-Moore / Arete / Team Rubicon UK)

One of the biggest challenges aid organisations have faced is simply trying to reach the people that need their help. Even after the floodwaters receded, some communities remained isolated for weeks; sections of highway and bridges have been washed away, and tight, winding dirt roads have been bogged down in mud and blocked by fallen trees. These were communities that lost everything.

Martha Paolo, a nineteen year-old mother of two, lives in the village of Gaubolene, a few hours’ drive from Beira. “This is the first time we’ve seen anything like this here,” she told me, through a translator. Even the oldest people in her village couldn’t remember a storm as bad as this. Warnings had come through on the phone, but no-one here expected to see anything of the magnitude of the chest-high floodwaters. “We tried to protect ourselves in the house, but the storm blew the roofs off,” she said. “There are many families that lost all their family members.”

Martha stands in the shade of a rudimentary classroom, having just receives a family kit (Photo: Phil Hatcher-Moore / Arete / Team Rubicon UK)

As the waters rose, Martha, who is several months pregnant, took her two children and climbed a nearby tree, covering herself and her children with a blanket — their only protection against the storm. The family spent the entire night in the tree, and the following day, braved the gushing waters in search of higher ground. “We couldn’t save anything from the house,” she said. “We lost everything.” The house was washed away, along with all their belongings, and the family’s crops were drowned in the flooded fields.

Martha said it took a month for the first aid to arrive. Trees had fallen, blocking off the tracks that led to the village. They had had one drop of food aid, and the community helped each other out with jerry cans and cooking pots. A week before I met Martha, John Zoumides, a former army medic who now volunteers with Team Rubicon UK, had arrived in the village on a helicopter recce. After speaking with the local chief, the team organised to come back with kits to help people get back on their feet: jerry-cans, blankets, solar lamps and other items. I rode along with them as they were bringing it all in.

“Improvise, adapt, overcome”

Earlier in the week, I had spent time with Team Rubicon UK’s other strike team — the aforementioned arduous all-night truck ride. We had to negotiate rickety, makeshift bridges and detours around washed-out roads, the convoy blew a tyre, and I had to climb out of the cab to hoist fallen telephone lines clear of the truck.

Paul Taylor served in the infantry of the British Army for 26 years, and has turned his career to disaster response and humanitarian aid; a Team Rubicon UK veteran, he had led this mission from the first deployment. When our truck rolled in to the dusty, barren village of Bandua one morning at 5am, it was Paul that met us, a head-torch on, having just emerged from the mosquito dome in which he had spent the night.

Paul emerges from his sleeping net (Photo: Phil Hatcher-Moore / Arete / Team Rubicon UK)

Paul and his team were not afraid to rough it, nor of getting stuck in with whatever needed doing. They hired labourers to help unload the several tonnes of aid, but were right in the middle of them, sweating it out in the midday sun to get everything unloaded. When the trucks got stuck in the sand, they were there digging them out. And symbolic of the respect they had for the community they were helping, as soon as the trucks were out, they grabbed shovels and filled in the trenches left by the spinning wheels. In all my years spent getting stuck on bad roads in far-flung places, I have never seen someone pick up a shovel to leave an area just as they had found it. I often heard Paul utter his mantra — “improvise, adapt, overcome” — when faced with problems. And this is exactly what his team were doing, day-in, day-out.

John takes a motorcycle, which can more easily navigate the narrow roads (Photo: Phil Hatcher-Moore / Arete / Team Rubicon UK)

Back in Gaubolene, John was having to improvise, adapt, and overcome, too. A culvert had collapsed on the main road — a 4x4 could drive through, but not the big wagon that was bringing in the aid to Martha and the rest of the population. And further along, the road narrowed, until eventually it was swallowed by the stagnant flood waters.

John jumped out of the pick-up truck, and arranged for it to shuttle back and forth, between the truck and a school, bringing in a few kits at a time. Meanwhile, he rounded up a group of motorcycles to bring him and more than one hundred jerry cans to the village, several kilometres away. If they couldn’t get all of the aid to the village, they’d bring the village to the aid.

Women wait for aid in Gaubolene, Mozambique (Photo: Phil Hatcher-Moore / Arete / Team Rubicon UK)

Families were arriving on foot as pick-up trucks ferried-in the supplies, congregating on the football pitch of the local primary school. The school was on slightly higher ground, so had escaped the flooding, but the rustic buildings had taken a battering by the winds, their roofs blown off, and some classrooms had collapsed.

Jordão Alficha was in the corner of the site, steadily fashioning a structure for a new classroom with a machete. He was not the sort of man to wait for assistance to come — it could be months, years even, before the school received any sort of help to rebuild. So this teacher was taking matters into his own hands. The classrooms he could fix, but his bigger concern was the damage caused by the storm to the school’s solar panels — the only source of electricity this far out in the bush. These were something he couldn’t repair.

Jordão sets about rebuilding the school in Gaubolene, Mozambique (Photo: Phil Hatcher-Moore / Arete / Team Rubicon UK)

“Your mother is a donor”

With the trucks emptied, Paul and John’s respective teams travelled back to Beira, where they had set-up base. It’s common for aid organisations to take over hotels and apartment complexes in disaster zones, often resulting in lucrative deals for their owners.

This was a somewhat different set-up.

In an empty bar-room of a local beach club, Team Rubicon had set-up their mosquito nets on the floor, living out of the kit-bags with which they had flown out, sharing the space with a contingent of Brazilian firefighters who had also come to help the relief effort. The owner of the complex had welcomed disaster responders, and Paul and the team had struck up a relationship with him, each of them simply wanting to do what they could to help people in need. Everywhere they went, their spirit of volunteering spread to those they met, and through these collaborations, things were achieved.

The idea of squeezing the most out of every penny donated seemed to be at the core of how Team Rubicon operated here. The seven responders working alongside Paul were all volunteering their time to be out here, taking time off work, and keeping their living costs to the bare minimum. They were sleeping on the floor, negotiating contracts for trucks and cars as hard as possible, and pushing every day to get as much work done as they could, all whilst living off one meal a day — often a dehydrated ration pack cooked over a camping stove far from the nearest bed. They knew that the people they had come to help were living in much harder conditions, and so had little time for luxuries.

Team Rubicon UK volunteers unload aid in Mozambique (Photo: Phil Hatcher-Moore / Arete / Team Rubicon UK)

I have at times become somewhat disenchanted by the waste and inefficiency of some of the responses witnessed in the myriad conflict and disaster zones I’ve covered across the continent. It was refreshing to spend time with a group of people who simply wanted to help: to get their heads down, and get things done. They said they felt proud, and privileged, to be out helping people, and they lived by their organisation’s values: “your mother is a donor” — in other words, don’t waste a penny.

After a week with with the team, I was flying back as they ended their mission. The flight home for me would take the best part of 24 hours. As I stood waiting for a coffee at the airport, I made small-talk with a salaried NGO worker in the café. She talked about her flight out to Mozambique, and how she had sent the available routes to her boss. “Just take the shorter one,” had been the response. “It’s only an extra £300.”


From the photographer: working in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Photographing people in a medical setting: how and why to do it

Photographing people in medical settings: how and why to do it

Health worker Sarah Engino prepares to immunise a boy with the measles and rubella vaccine in Shambarai village, Tanzania (Photo: Karel Prinsloo /Gavi)

Arete translates as knowledge. An area where knowledge is key is photography — particularly when it comes to photographing people in medical settings, such as hospitals and clinics. Without the right set of skills and knowledge more harm than good can be done by photojournalists.

We work with some of the world’s biggest non-governmental organisations and charities, gathering stories on their behalf. It is therefore of the utmost importance that every piece of information our journalists and photographers gather has the patient’s wellbeing in mind and adheres to an ethical code.

Following on from our previous blog by Arete photojournalist Karel Prinsloo, we discuss some of the key points in photographing people with medical issues.

The well-known saying ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ still holds true when it comes to photojournalism. It is no secret that the world’s NGOs and charities must fund-raise in order to provide free support to people in critical and life threatening situations. This is where original photographs come to the fore; there is no medium that tells a story better than a still image.

It is key that how and why these photos are being taken is communicated to everyone involved, and consent is given before any photography takes place.

Consent

Asking for consent from the patient, the patient’s next of kin, or the director of the medical facility should always be the first port of call for any photojournalist. Who consent is obtained from will be dependent on the situation of each patient. If the patient is unconscious, or devoid of mental capacity, then consent can be sought from the appropriate guardian — be it the person in charge of the medical facility or their next of kin.

An integral part of the process of asking for consent is explaining how and why these photos are being taken, how they will be used and by which organisation or charity.

A young girl holds her newborn baby at the Mbambamu Health Centre Kwango, Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo: Kate HoltJhpiego)

Observe, don’t interfere

A photojournalist in this situation is ultimately there as an observer. Being mindful and aware are two of the most important attributes a professional can have when photographing people in medical settings.

It is always best to observe from a distance and to not get in the way of medical staff in an emergency. Be aware of the impact you are having by simply being present with your camera, always aim to avoid causing harm or distress.

Mombenga Mona Julie has her blood pressure taken before receiving the family planning injection at Boo Nsuba Health Centre Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo: Kate HoltJhpiego)

Dignity

Aiming to preserve the dignity of the patients should always be a high priority. From a technical perspective this means using equipment such as a long range lens, so as to avoid getting too close to a patient and invading their personal space. From a human perspective this means being conscious of how your actions or intentions are impacting upon the person, and those giving them care.

Before starting to take any photographs it is important to spend time with the patient, talking about anything other than their medical condition so you can gain their trust. When it comes to taking the photographs don’t focus only on the visibly affected areas of the body.

If required there are also various techniques that can be employed to preserve the anonymity of the patient too — such as not capturing the patient’s face in full, the eyes, or any identifying tattoos or hospital tags.

Cervical cancer patient Tabu Kitmonga Kiparu (46) in her hospital bed at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (Photo: Karel PrinslooGavi)

Using the photos

Employing a code of practice and ethics is just as important when choosing which photos to use as it is when taking them.

An example of this can be seen in the New York Times reporting of the terrorist attack on the Nairobi hotel-office complex in January of 2019.

The decision was made to publish photos of a number of the victims who died. The ensuing backlash from the people of Kenya and elsewhere in the world showed how unethical a decision this was.

Ultimately, here at Arete each of our photojournalists operate in accordance with their own code of ethics — some of which we have explained in more detail above. Only photos that fall in line with those ethics will be presented to the client. Although which of those photos are used, or not, always remains the client’s decision.

Mombenga Mona Julie receives counselling about different family planning methods from Tshezanga Jane at Boo Nsuba Health Centre in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo: Kate HoltJhpiego)

At Arete we source and manage local experts in photography, video, digital and written content from around the world to help tell stories that make a difference. To discuss photographing people in medical settings in more detail, or how to tell a story of your own, you can get in touch here.


Photographing people in a medical setting: how and why to do it was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


From the photographer: Photographing tropical diseases

- Karel Prinsloo, Arete photographer based in Johannesburg

In early April, I set off for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to join a mission with Sightsavers, an international charity that helps people affected by avoidable blindness.

The village of Kakonkanya, near Lubumbashi, DRC. (Photo: Karel Prinsloo / Arete / Sightsavers)

Once in the country, I travelled with Dr Diana Joana Kaningini from the DRC Ministry of Health, and Dr. Alice Mutekwa, the United Front Against Riverblindness (UFAR) project co-ordinator in Katanga, a partner of Sightsavers.

Alice Mutekwa, the UFAR project co-ordinator in Katanga, shows some information posters at a government clinic in the village of Makulo, near Lubumbashi, DRC (Photo: Karel Prinsloo / Arete / Sightsavers)

I have seen pictures before of people living with elephantiasis (lymphedema), but nothing could prepare me for the reality of meeting patients who suffer from this disease.

The first person we met was a woman with some swelling in her leg, caused by lymphatic filariasis (LF), a disease caused by thread-like nematode worms spread by infected mosquitoes. I thought ‘Okay, this isn’t too bad’. But throughout my trip, the cases became progressively worse.

Marie Claire Mwika, who is affected by lymphedema, has her leg washed by a nurse in the village of Makulo, near Lubumbashi, DRC (Photo: Karel Prinsloo / Arete / Sightsavers)

On the second to last day, as we travelled, we came across a woman called Marie Mwape. Her leg was in really bad shape and had some open sores. Our team decided to return the following day with the necessary medication to help her.

Lymphedema patient Marie Mwape, 34, stands in front of her house in the village of Kasakota, near Lubumbashi, DRC. (Photo: Karel Prinsloo / Arete / Sightsavers)

The next morning we met her and her husband at a medical facility about 60km away from Lubumbashi. I could see that Marie was nervous, and her husband stood in the far side of the room, uncertain what was about to happen. With great tenderness, Dr Diana start to clean Marie’s swollen leg, gradually washing away the layers of dirt to show the true extent of her injuries. Along with the swelling of her leg and foot, she had several open wounds on her ankle.

Lymphedema patient Marie Mwape, 34, stands in front of her house in the village of Kasakota, near Lubumbashi, DRC. (Photo: Karel Prinsloo / Arete / Sightsavers)

She told us that she has lived with this condition for twenty years. It struck me that she was not aware of what had caused her illness, as is the case for most people who we met along the way. People typically use traditional medicine to treat the problem, as they either do not trust modern medicine or, as in most cases, cannot afford it.

Lymphedema patient Marie Mwape, 34, has her leg cleaned at a clinic near the village of Kasakota, near Lubumbashi, DRC. (Photo: Karel Prinsloo / Arete / Sightsavers)

I took a portrait of Marie as her feet was cleaned and I noticed that she was a striking woman, with only her feet giving away her terrible circumstances. She handled her situation with dignity and grace, and smiled as I photographed her. Even with the help of modern medicine, her condition is irreversible, as treatment can only stop the disease from spreading further into her body.

Lymphedema patient Marie Mwape, 34, poses for a portrait at a clinic near the village of Kasakota, near Lubumbashi, DRC. (Photo: Karel Prinsloo / Arete / Sightsavers)

This is in contrast to some of the male patients we met, who were suffering from another complication relating to LF, known as hydrocele — a type of swelling in the scrotum. Hydrocele, unlike elephantiasis, can be cured with a simple operation.

Former hydrocele patient Tshinyama Ilunbwa buttons up his son, Tresor’s, shirt with his daughter Sifa at his home in the village of Kamafesa, near Lubumbashi, DRC (Photo: Karel Prinsloo / Arete / Sightsavers)

Despite its easy treatment, the stigma and misinformation surrounding hydrocele can have a terrible social impact upon those it affects. Some of the male patients we talked to had lost their spouses, and were being shunned by their community. The operation is the first step for them in rebuilding their lives.

Lymphatic filariasis takes a terrible toll on the communities it affects, and it is indiscriminate. A person’s fate is often decided by where they live; most of the patients live near water and do not have access to health facilities. A simple bite from a mosquito and they are condemned to dealing with a life-long illness.

Children collect water from a river in the village of Kasakota, near Lubumbashi, DRC. (Photo: Karel Prinsloo / Arete / Sightsavers)

As a photographer, I found people were open to being photographed even though some of them have serious physical symptoms caused by their diseases. I always make sure they are happy for me to take their photograph, though nobody said no. However, I try as far as possible to use a longer lens, which allows me to stand further away and lessen the intrusion into their personal space. I also find it important to focus on their faces, to show them as human beings, rather than to focus purely on their disability.

What struck me most during this assignment is that the people I photographed have mostly accepted their condition, and carried on with their daily lives. They have continued to work, and care for their children and family; no time is spent thinking about why this happened to them in particular.

This type of work takes a heavier personal toll on me these days, since having had children. I see the difficulties faced not only by the people affected by the disease, but of their families too, especially children. It is unfair that people have to live with diseases like this in 2019, when so much can be gained with just a small amount of medical attention. Unfortunately, in many of these kinds of places, people just do not have any access to medicine.

More information about Lymphatic Filariasis

Lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as LF, is one of the world’s leading cause of physical disability. It is estimated that up to 120 million people in 83 countries worldwide are affected by some form of filariasis. It is caused by parasites, transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. The disease can result in an altered lymphatic system and severe swelling in the limbs (lymphedema) or scrotum (hydrocele). Patients suffer painful attacks where they often can’t work or move around. Patients can be taught to manage lymphedema so it doesn’t progress, but it’s not reversible. Hydrocele can be cured with a simple surgery.

Karel Prinsloo biography

Karel Prinsloo is an award-winning African photographer. He was born in Namibia, and has over 20 years’ experience working in Africa as a photographer. Based in Nairobi for nearly a decade for the Associated Press as their East Africa Chief Photographer and Picture Editor, he has extensive knowledge of Eastern and Southern Africa as well as the Middle East.


From the photographer: Photographing tropical diseases was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


From the Photographer: Covering Ebola in DR Congo

- Kate Holt

For several months I had been discussing a potential trip with the humanitarian organisation Medair to visit their projects in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and their response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak. My initial plan was to travel to Goma in December, but the upcoming elections in Congo posed security concerns that may have impeded my ability to visit the projects I wanted to see.

A view shows the top of the Nyragonga Volcano that towers over the city of Goma and the surrounding Virunga National Park, in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Kate Holt/Medair

I witnessed first-hand the devastation Ebola had caused in West Africa; having worked throughout eastern DRC between 2004–2005 I was keen to see how communities there were coping with the outbreak. The region had been riddled with violence an ineffective government for years and massive displacement had caused traditional coping mechanisms to be reduced.

The latest Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo, the second deadliest in history, has entered its seventh month, with 807 confirmed cases, of which 483 have resulted in death. The disease is moving toward the major border city of Goma; a city of nearly 1.5 million people. This development would greatly complicate any hope of stopping the virus’ spread in the unstable region.

By the end of January the election results were finalised and tensions were starting to calm. The Ebola outbreak still raged, however, with between 3–14 new cases being reported every day. Medair had been working in Beni and Butembo — the regions affected by the outbreak — for the last six years, so had existing programmes that could be expanded to meet the challenges of containing the outbreak.

An aerial view shows the close proximity of houses in which a population of 1.5 million people live in the city of Goma, North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Kate Holt / Medair

One of the reasons I love working with Medair is the warm welcome their staff always give you. I have visited their projects working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon, in Somalia, and have undertaken photography trainings with their communication staff. At the first morning meeting I attended in Goma, I was invited to join the morning prayers — The Congolese love to sing and are incredibly musical. They were all so positive, despite the challenges they faced every day in combating the outbreak.

I was accompanied on my visit by Pete Harrison from the Communications and Fundraising team. We flew together on the daily UN flight, landing on the UN military base just outside of Beni. There have been ongoing security issues in Beni; one of the Medair-supported health centres was attacked and burnt to the ground in December. Seven Medair-supported health centres have been attacked and burnt or looted in North Kivu since November, along with several others supported by other organisations.

Two Congolese Government soldiers ride a motorbike in front of a sign warning about the dangers of Ebola on the road between Beni and Oicha in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Kate Holt / Medair

Everywhere along our journey there were handwashing stations: at the entrance and exit to the airports; entrance to offices; and at every UN and government building. It was very reminiscent of the outbreak in West Africa. Small amounts of bleach are diluted in the water to ensure that any trace of the Ebola virus is killed should you have it on your hands. After five days of washing my hands and nails were spotlessly clean!

It’s also interesting to note that one of the upsides of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, was that the cases of diarrhoea decreased in communities where handwashing was implemented. It is thought that this was because of the improved hygiene standards as a result of frequent handwashing.

Children wash their hands at a handwashing station supported by Medair in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Kate Holt / Medair

As we arrived Beni as the number of cases continued to rise . A case had just been confirmed in Bunia and several had been confirmed further south, on the road to Goma. The outbreak had first been declared on 01 August, and I was in Beni for the six-month anniversary. By this point, over 500 peopled had died and nearly 800 infected, and there were fears that the outbreak was getting out of control.

I was told that the WHO was currently engaging its sixth strategy in the outbreak. The methodology employed in the western DRC outbreak hadn’t been effective in the east; the context was too different and security problems with rebel groups had hindered the ability of vaccinators to reach communities, and safe burial teams to carry out funerals.

A health care worker fills in a patient’s form in in the Ebola Treatment Centre in run by ALIMA in Beni, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Kate Holt / Medair

The Ebola vaccine is transforming the way NGOs are able to respond to the outbreak. It has been a massive development since the outbreak in West Africa — when no vaccine was available — meaning frontline health workers were in danger of catching Ebola from patients. Nearly all of the Medair staff in Beni had volunteered to have the vaccine, which gave them a sense of security against contracting Ebola when going about their daily work.

Micheline, who worked in the Medair procurement department, told me that she felt much more confident and able to do her job since she’d had the vaccine. She pointed out that when the staff were all vaccinated, it was only the men who complained of feeling ill afterwards and took time off work — whereas the women were able to keep on doing their jobs!

Vaccinators dispense the vaccine in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Kate Holt / Medair

It was fascinating to see first-hand the challenges being faced by the NGOs and UN agencies trying to stop the spread of Ebola. Sara Philips, the Medair Ebola response coordinator, was adamant that security wasn’t the only reason that it was proving difficult to get on top of the outbreak, and that much more engagement with local communities was needed. She explained how Medair was dong this through engaging with communities and providing education to traditional healers and community groups who were are the forefront of the outbreak.

Sarah Philips speaks to a health worker at a clinic in Mbau, Beni, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Kate Holt / Medair

I was taken to Mbau, one of the epicentres of the outbreak where Medair was working in the local health centres. They had helped the centre to set up a screening unit and establish infection, prevention and control measures through handwashing stations and hygiene promotion.

Gédéon Mafungula , Hygiene Promoter with Medair, uses a handwashing station supported by Medair to clean his hands in Mbau, Beni, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Kate Holt / Medair

To get there we had to pass through a checkpoint on the road out of Beni, where we all had to get out of the vehicles, wash our hands and have our temperatures taken. These checkpoints exist all along the road down Eastern Congo at the moment, in the hope that anyone infected with Ebola will be screened in an attempt to stop the spread.

Two Congolese soldiers have their feet and tires sprayed with bleach on the road between Beni and Oicha in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Kate Holt /Medair

Nothing can prepare you for meeting a parent who has lost their child to Ebola. We met Papa Kambala in Mbau. His daughter, a school teacher who lived with him, had contracted Ebola before Christmas and died shortly afterwards. He told me “My daughter was the one who supported me but now she is gone I am alone to care for my three grandchildren. Life has been hard. All I want to do now is dig my own grave and die.”

Papa Kambale poses for a photograph in his house in Mbau, Beni, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Kate Holt/Medair

His daughter had lived with him and helped to look after his three orphaned grandchildren, as well as supporting him financially. After her death, the house was sterilised and all mattresses and cushions were destroyed; he was given a new mattress by the Ministry of Health, but no new cushions.

I also met 65-year-old Agwandia Jermanine, who had survived Ebola at Christmas time. She was determined to teach others about the importance of early detection and treatment, through speaking at community meetings organised by Medair.

Agwandia talks to a group of traditional healers about the importance of alerting health authorities early if they suspect a case of Ebola in patients in Mbau, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Kate Holt / Medair

It was evident from my visit to Mbau that Ebola wasn’t the only challenge facing this community. I met Marie, sitting on a bed with her baby, who was suffering from a convulsions.

Marie sits next to her daughter in a health centre that is supported by Medair, in Mbau, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Kate Holt / Medair

Marie had been forced to flee her village in a village 25 kilometres away after it was repeatedly attacked in September. During one of the attacks, her husband was killed by rebel soldiers, and she lost everything. She is now living with her eight children in rented accommodation, and has little money to buy food or pay for any of her children to go to school. She is frightened of catching Ebola and this prevented her accessing treatment earlier with her daughter.

The international response to the Ebola outbreak has been huge. Millions of dollars-worth of help has flooded into the region to try to curb the Ebola outbreak since last August. Yet it struck me that for years, people like Marie have suffered displacement, poverty and violence. Thousands of people have died because of the war and lack of access to quality healthcare, before this outbreak began.

About the photographer

Kate Holt is the founder and director of Arete. For the last twenty years she has photographed regularly for numerous NGOs — including UNICEF, Care International, Jhpiego, the International Red Cross, MSF and OXFAM. She is a regular contributor to the Guardian and the BBC.


From the Photographer: Covering Ebola in DR Congo was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


From the Photographer: working in SE Asia as a documentary photographer

- Lewis Inman, Arete photographer

Language, heat, moisture and more moisture.

Can I take your photo?

Across Indonesia, over 300 different languages are spoken. As a photographer, you will almost certainly need a translator who can speak the language of the ethnic group that you will be working with. But finding someone with professional translation experience outside of a big city can be difficult.

Photo: Lewis Inman

Translator or not, a critical sentence to learn in the local language is “Can I take your photo?” as this helps to build a relationship and can help to spark a conversation. Just make sure not to say the sentence too well, as people sometimes assume you are fluent, which can be quite embarrassing when it turns out you most certainly aren’t!

You may pick up the local language quite quickly, but then find yourself on another assignment in a different area, with an entirely different dialect. This has been the case with all the cities and villages that I have worked in or visited across South-East Asia. The key is to remain adaptable — try to pick up a few key phrases wherever you are and build up your base of translation contacts.

Culture vulture

Having spent the majority of the last four years in South-East Asia, I have developed a good understanding of the culture and the way things work. For instance, it is critical to understand prayer times in Muslim countries. You need to be aware that the people you are working with might need to stop what they are doing to pray, and to be able to time interviews and travel around this.

Photo: Lewis Inman

One of the things I have found helpful is my love of food! Having a passion for food somehow gives me a good understanding of local culture when I first arrive somewhere. All you need to do is visit a local market or a local street food hotspot when you first arrive — this can give you a good understanding of how the place works, which can come in very handy in the long run when you are out and about taking photos.

Heat and humidity

As expected, South East Asia is, in general, very hot. Shooting will make you tired and achy, and in between shoots you will most likely be travelling, most of the time on dangerous and uncomfortable roads. So it goes without saying that keeping hydrated and out of the sun is essential.

Photo: Lewis Inman

But those new to this type of environment might not realise the problems of extremely high humidity, which can be incredibly dangerous for cameras and laptops, and before you know it, that expensive laptop starts failing, the metal starts to corrode, and the whole thing eventually dies. It is always essential to have spares, backups and workarounds in case of emergencies. Use silica gel and waterproof cases to keep your equipment as dry as possible (and bring plenty of the former — it’s not often you come across an obliging oven in which to dry out your silica packages!).

Of course, it’s all very well telling you to pack two of everything, but bear in mind that an assignment begins before you start pointing your camera at things — it starts in your suitcase. Plan ahead, travel as light as possible and make sure that everything you have is functional and necessary. As if worst comes to worst — know if and where you can get a quick replacement to mitigate against any equipment failure.

Photo: Lewis Inman

Working as a freelance photographer in South East Asia — or any new region — will always present its own set of challenges. Some problems are universal, some specific to the place you will be working in: the key is research, research, research. And then, be flexible!

Yes, South East Asia can be a daunting place to work in sometimes, but there’s a reason I keep coming back, both as a photographer and in a personal capacity. It’s an extraordinary area with so much life, culture (and food) to see that I can’t imagine I’ll ever feel ‘done’.

Lewis Inman is an award-winning documentary photographer and filmmaker born in London and now based in the Philippines, covering social issues and commercial commissions worldwide. Lewis received a 1st class honours in Photojournalism & Documentary Photography from University of the Arts London (LCC). Lewis has won many awards including first place prize of the Symons-Hatton Award, recognising his “commitment and dedication to Lens Based Media”. He has been working in South-East Asia with a range of clients including Team Rubicon UK and the DEC on behalf of Arete.


From the Photographer: working in SE Asia as a documentary photographer was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


From the podcaster: Gathering stories in Lesotho with Jhpiego

- Eden Sparke

Since podcasting took off in late 2004, ‘audioblogging’ has grown exponentially, and today there are over 550,000 podcasts published on various platforms, catering to audiences around the world.

Podcasts represent a welcome diversion from the screen-centric world we have found ourselves in. Instead of staring into your phone for the entirety of a commute, we can now dive deep into stories, catch up with the news, and learn new skills through our headphones while taking in the world around us.

Arete is seeing an increasing demand from clients keen to break into this market. Non-profits are always striving to tell stories direct from the people they work with, and podcasting is a great way to do this — hearing someone telling their own story, in their own voice, provides an authenticity and intimacy that you cannot get from reading words on a page.

A view of a suburb in Maseru, Lesotho (Kate HoltJhpiego)

With this in mind, I set off in November with Arete photographer Kate Holt to the small, landlocked country of Lesotho, to gather stories from people affected by the country’s HIV epidemic.

Lesotho has the second-highest rate of HIV prevalence in the world, with over a quarter of the population testing positive for the virus. But myths and stigma around HIV are still rife, meaning many avoid testing and treatment.

A sex worker walks on the streets of Maseru in search of clients (Kate HoltJhpiego)

On my first day, I met with two female sex workers, who are the most at-risk group for HIV infection in the country, with 72% being HIV positive. Limakatso, a tall, proud-looking woman, tells us about the conditions that she works in; enduring police brutality, men who refuse to wear condoms, and competition between sex workers for clients. She speaks in a matter-of-fact manner, even when she talks about subjects that many people would find emotionally draining to deal with on a daily basis.

But it’s when she speaks about her peer education work that her voice takes on a different tone. When I hear her speak the line that would subsequently be translated as “When I realise that someone has taken my advice, I feel like a champion!”, I sense the pride and energy in her voice. Editing it into the podcast brings a wonderful sense of hope to end a story punctuated by sad and sometimes brutal events.

The next day, we meet two members of another high-risk group — young women — about their use of the HIV prevention drug, PrEP. Mphao, who is 18-years-old and has just begun work as a radio presenter, began to take PrEP out of fear that her night job as an MC might lead to her being attacked and infected. She is articulate, speaks perfect English, and isn’t afraid to give us a deep insight into her thought process and feelings around HIV.

Mphao presents the latest instalment of her radio show (Kate HoltJhpiego)

“All this time I’ve always been wondering, ‘okay, it’s a pill you take daily, what difference does it make from taking other ARVs?” she says. “It’s almost the same.” It’s moments like these, captured on audio in real time, that allows a direct connection from the listener to her thoughts and feelings.

Limpho (L), a Voluntary Community Activist, speaks to her friends about PrEP and HIV (Kate HoltJhpiego)

21-year-old Limpho has the same openness when interviewed about why she feels so many people in Lesotho — nearly 20% — don’t know their HIV status. “Most girls say, if I know my status, it’s not going to change anything physically,” she says. “Because their main concern is ARVs. They’re like, ‘if I don’t take ARVs, nothing’s going to change.’ Like they have a belief that if you take HIV ARVs that you’re going to be fat, or something’s going to change physically.”

Tsotleho speaks with a patient at Khotla clinic, Maseru (Kate HoltJhpiego)

Finally, we meet Tsotleho, a nurse at Jhpiego-run all-male clinic on the outskirts of Maseru. He speaks to us at length about the issues that men face while accessing healthcare, giving an insight that would be very different to those of the 80% of healthcare workers in Lesotho that are female.

“Given the strong cultural background of our people, men are very secretive,” he explains. “They don’t think they can talk with the females, whether they are health providers or not. So they tend to hide lots of health issues that concern them, especially reproductive and sexual health - they don’t disclose to females.”

Gathering perspectives like this, from groups that are typically underrepresented in arenas like development, government and healthcare, can only benefit organisations. It can uncover and provide solutions to problems, allowing interventions — wherever they originate from — to be more closely aligned with the needs of those they are targeting. The voices of those affected by the issues that NGOs and others are seeking to combat should be amplified, and podcasts are a fantastic, and innovative, way of doing this.

You can listen to the podcast series here.

Biography

Eden Sparke is Production Lead at Arete. When not recording and producing podcasts, she is editing videos for clients like UNICEF and World Health Organization, and honing her photography skills.


From the podcaster: Gathering stories in Lesotho with Jhpiego was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


From the videographer: First time in Somalia

- Remi Bumstead

When you hear of Somalia in the media it is often tied with negative connotations: pirates; Al Shabbab; and famine. So when I got the call from Arete to create some videos for their clients World Food Programme and FAO in Somalia, I was very interested to find out what the stories would be like on the ground.

Camels in Somalia (Kevin Ouma / FAO)

In Somalia, livestock is key. The majority of people living outside of urban areas rely almost solely on livestock to survive, with cattle, goats, and camels being the key players. Not only do the people of Somalia use milk and meat for their personal consumption, the animals are bought and sold as their main form of currency; one of the main exports of Somalia is livestock. Animals are their lifeline.

In 2017, as Somalia was experiencing its second consecutive year of drought, livestock suffered greatly. Without pasture and water, they became weak. Disease and infection spread, and animals stopped producing milk; they became unsaleable, most of them died, and people’s assets with them. People had no money to purchase simple things like salt, to send their children to school, or to buy food. Somalia was on the brink of famine.

A Community Animal Health Worker treats animals in Gabilay Village, Somaliland (Kevin Ouma / FAO)

While working with FAO I saw first hand how their interventions brought people back from the brink of famine. Working through local organisations, FAO were able to set up initiatives to assist the local community to create water catchments, which funnelled and collect any rain into small dammed lakes. They did this via the ‘cash for work program’ which not only meant there was the creation of the water catchment, but also that people received an income when there was no other work.

A man helps to build a water catchment in Walalgo Village, Somaliland, as part of a Cash for Work programme (Kevin Ouma / FAO)

I spoke to many people who told me that this was a lifeline, helping them to buy food and ensure their children were healthy. Once the rains did come, the water collected in the catchments. The few animals that survived now had access to water, and the area around it also created pasture for their feed. It was amazing to see these catchments in this arid environment — especially when we got the drone up to take some footage! From all the people I spoke with while with FAO, it was clear to see that by addressing the needs of animals, they were able to address the needs of the people.

I also spent time with the World Food Programme, and it was inspiring to see first hand how their projects have helped people in response to the drought as well. WFP has historically undertaken food distribution in emergency contexts, although in recent years they have started to use voucher schemes or e-cash in order to distribute food. This entails topping up people’s cash cards, just like a pre-paid debit card, with money they can use to buy goods in local markets and shops. As a result, people are benefitting their local economy, and being given more choice in what they can buy.

Women show their SCOPE cards in Garowe, Somalia (Kevin Ouma / FAO)

In Somalia, phone use is high and mobile internet speeds are fast and relatively cheap. Additionally, people with phones tend to share them with family and friends, so even if someone doesn’t own a phone, most people have access to one. In response to this, World Food Programme have created a new platform building on the e-cash cards, developing it into an app and WFP e-shop. This app works in a similar way to many of our online shopping apps, allowing users to search for food products to buy from local shops and then having it delivered to their door.

A woman logs into the WFP app to shop for food (Kevin Ouma / FAO)

The e-shop works with the local stores, updating their stock on the app and showing the price of each item, allowing people to search the shops in their area to see what is available and at what price. Each month, World Food Programme adds people’s allowance onto the e-card, which syncs with the e-shop app. From the many people I spoke to about this programme, the recurring theme was how it has made their lives so much easier and allows them to spend their energy on more important things — like preparing for the next drought.

I learnt that Somalia is definitely not just pirates, Al Shabbab, and famine. I heard amazing stories while I was there, and seeing it was great to see how the World Food Programme and FAO projects are directly improving peoples lives.

About Remi

Remi Bumstead is videographer with 7 years of experience working internationally for a wide range of clients. Some of his clients include UNICEF, FAO, WFP, Restless Development and RedR. He has worked in a number of countries including Uganda, The Gambia, Samoa and India.


From the videographer: First time in Somalia was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Ethos meets - Kate Holt

Arete is a unique storytelling agency, which works with NGOs, governments and charities, and sources and manages local experts in photography, video, digital and written content from around the world. Jack Atkins caught up with Arete’s founder, award winning photojournalist Kate Holt, to find out more about her process and ideologies…

Iraq — Warchild; A young boy sits on top of a truck containing his families belongings on the road to Mosul, Iraq Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. The exodus of civilians from the battleground northern Iraqi city of Mosul has reached an unprecedented level, leaving aid agencies struggling to cope. Nearly 1 million people have been displaced from Mosul since 2014 in the biggest battle since the second world war. Many are returning but everything has been destroyed and rebuilding will take years.

When do you consider your work on a story to be done?
It’s never really done is it. I always find it frustrating when I walk away from a story and think “Oh God I really should have asked this question” or I like at my set of pictures and think “Oh I really should have shot THAT bit” so I suppose you never really finish, and people’s stories are always unfinished stories aren’t they. I think when we’re striving to tell people’s stories it’s important to get as much information as possible that’s going to engage people with their lives.

What constitutes success; is it getting people talking and raising awareness, or is it direct action?
I think it’s both. A lot of storytelling, especially the type of stories we produce and write and photograph, are about raising awareness because once awareness is raised change happens. I don’t think change is quick, and I think change is very much about changing people’s attitudes, and that’s a much longer and harder journey.

How often do stories come to you, or do you go to them?
A mixture of both really, I have a lot of clients such as Unicef, UNHCR, World Food Programme, the Guardian, and sometimes they’ll come to me and say “right we want you to go out to Iraq and we want you to cover this story and we’ll give you a driver and a translator and you’ll work with our project out there” and I’ll do what they ask for. What I often find is that there’s a bit of a disconnect between people’s expectations and what can actually be produced, because really often the story is not what they think it’s going to be. I like being flexible in that situation, and I encourage my clients to be open minded about what the end result may be.

With regards to commercial work, how hard is it to balance the profitable side with the humanitarian side of the business?
It’s not actually, although I get paid for producing humanitarian stories… one of the things I’ve discovered is that no-one sets out to do a bad job. Particularly charities, UN agencies, government organisations, the likes of Save the Children, Oxfam etc., none of them set out to cause harm. Ultimately we’re all on the same journey, we all want to create a better space and a better place for people to live and work in. So although we get paid for what we do, I think it’s important to keep in mind that even if I see things or I’m asked to do things I don’t like or are unethical, no-one is actually setting out to be unethical.

Have you therefore found that any of your images have been bastardised, or reproduced in a way that skews the narrative?
Yes! All the time! *laughs* No, not all the time, but I’ve definitely had bigger clients who have sometimes manipulated images which has really upset me. But I think since the rise of social media and internet platforms it is much less common now, as people are more aware that they’ll be found out. Before when we were mainly dealing with print media it was a lot easier for people to do that, so I think now there is much a greater autonomous policing because of the internet.

Because you know there is now a lot more transparency within the media, has it effected how you view your work and how you approach stories?
I know now there will be open to a lot more criticism, a lot more scrutiny, and I think that is really healthy for journalists, as I think it’s important that conversations are opened up and that everyone is entitled to their opinion. I think someone like me, I have a lot of experience working in different countries and it’s important that I make people aware that my opinions aren’t coming out of thin air, but a lot of my opinions come from experience out of long periods of time spent in difficult places. I think the internet is a really valuable tool, as you can do a lot more research into a subject as a result of the internet than you ever could before.

So how much do you find yourself relying on the internet for research, or do you still find the most valuable information from the people at the coalface?
To be honest when I go on assignment I do minimal research *laughs* I tend to do it post or when I’m in the field. I quite like arriving at places with fresh eyes and haven’t read to much into a brief or around the history of somewhere, because it’s amazing what you hear that you hadn’t really thought you’d hear. It’s really important to do first hand research and understand things from a personal perspective.

With you work with Arete how do you measure your success? Is it in seeing graduates work reaching high platforms, or is it in finding out the good in which they are applying their skills?
There’s two things. One thing we do with Arete is we do produce content. I find it hugely satisfying when we manage to produce content, or a film, or photos that have launched big campaigns — last year we did all the film and photography and footage for the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal in East Africa. We managed to produce that content within a week, that was a huge logistical operation, and it was hugely satisfying when that appeal was launched — I think they raised 45 million off the back of the photos and content we produced. That was very satisfying.

We’ve launched Christmas appeals as well, which is hugely satisfying when you see how much leverage and money that makes. But for me personally, the most satisfying thing is training. I really enjoy being able to tell other people what I do, how I do it, and how they can be better at it.

Seeing the myriad horrors you must have encountered across your career, how do you unwind? Is it a case of switching off as soon as you finish working, or do you try and capture positive images even though they may never be used?
There’s always a light-hearted side to a story. I just got back from South Sudan where I photographed a project for Plan International. We were doing a whole story about teenage girls in early marriage, teenage pregnancy, and it was all quite depressing. But within that I went to look for photos of the girls with their favourite item of clothing because teenage girls all over the world are quite similar *laughs* Within that project I managed to find something light-hearted, in order to break-up what was… not a monotonous photoshoot, but it was a photoshoot where I think quite a lot of the images people would have seen before and I wanted to make it quite different; you’re looking for difference within difficult stories.

Do you ever take those light-hearted photos just to ease the situation, and have you ever found that they’ve changed the story completely?
It’s never changed a story completely, but I think those happy accidents are important for connecting people, so rather than showing people doom and gloom and horror all the time I think it’s important to show them something different so they don’t switch off completely, and to attempt to build a bridge between really difficult situations and the life we lead back in the UK. I think that’s a really important side of what I do.

Can you tell us about any upcoming projects or exhibitions you have planned?
In terms of exhibitions I had an exhibition about South Sudan in London in June, and that was about teenage girls in South Sudan and the impact of war and drought and food insecurity on their lives. I took part in the Eye Festival in Wales in October, where I did portfolio reviews and taught people how to tell stories. I’m also always running workshops about photography, video, ethical content gathering. Really I’m focusing a lot of my training on moving people away from this sort of image of Africa, and the Middle East, and other war torn countries, moving people away from that concept of ‘poverty porn’ and just more of a positive narrative rather than something negative.

All images courtesy of Kate Holt/Arete. Used with permission.
Read more about the work of Kate and Arete
here
And see more of Kate’s work in our
Ethos issue 08 photo feature

Originally published at ethos-magazine.com.


Ethos meets - Kate Holt was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


From the photographer: documenting natural disasters

- Lewis Inman, Arete photographer

On 28 September 2018, Palu was hit by a 5-metre-high tsunami shortly after a magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck and area 80 km north of the city. The combined effects of the earthquake and tsunami led to the deaths of at least 2,100 people and many more missing. The earthquake caused major soil liquefaction, which meant many buildings were swallowed up by the ground.

A bulldozer sits next to the Roa Roa Hotel, where 50 bodies where found (Lewis Inman/Arete/DEC)

Before the disaster, I already had plans to travel to Indonesia as it has been a place of interest to me for a while. I’ve met several Indonesian photographers and really like their work, and there are festivals and events in the country that seemed unique and different from anywhere else I have encountered.

My initial plans were to visit Indonesia for a month or so, but this would have been after Christmas. However immediately upon hearing about the sheer scale of this disaster, I wanted to get out there and try to help; to show the disaster and give people a voice, while finding out what they needed.

Survivors of the earthquake reach for food and clothing being distributed in Palu city (Lewis Inman/Arete/DEC)

The first part of the journey took me from London to Jakarta. There is normally a direct flight to Palu, but due to damage to the airport, planes are currently unable to land. From Jakarta, I had to take a smaller plane with propellers via Makkasar (a port city on the eastern side of Sulawesi Island) to Palu. The flight was full of local NGO workers bringing as many supplies as they were allowed.

As we approached the airport, the city was eerily dark because of the lack of electricity. The airport, however, was filled with army personnel, equipment, planes and helicopters. I could see a temporary control tower in place. Once out of the airport, we were plunged into the darkness I had seen from the plane — the streets deserted, and all shops closed. After settling into one of the hotels that had not suffered severe damage, I headed out in the morning on foot to see the damage from the tsunami for the first time.

People walk through a severely damaged area called Manonda, where the damage to infrastructure is making relief efforts all the more difficult (Lewis Inman/Arete/DEC)

For the first weeks of my stay, electricity and supplies were limited. I had a stash of energy bars and a “lifesaver” water bottle, head torches, power banks to make sure I was able to work, and a first aid kit. There were frequent aftershocks — some so bad that I had to evacuate my hotel room in the middle of the night.

My commission with the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) and Arete started on 5 October 2018, shortly after I had arrived in the disaster zone.

Gathering stories

In some of the places we visited, I could smell the dead bodies left under the mud and debris. I also saw the shoes of babies, and all sorts of personal items. This is where photography ethics become even more important — I was careful not to disturb people’s possessions and memories.

We spent time with Viola, who was aged only 10, at a child-friendly space in Jono Oge village. During her interview, she told us about the moment that the earthquake hit. Despite her young age, and the difficult experiences she had faced, she was very articulate.

Viola, 10, stands outside a child-friendly space created in Jono One Village (Lewis Inman/Arete/DEC)

“When the earthquake hit I was at home and playing on the road,” she remembers. “I ran to my house, crying all the time. We didn’t know where to run to and we couldn’t run anyway because the land kept shaking. We all just sat there afraid.”

“I have been living in this temporary shelter for more than seven days now. I feel sad. It is uncomfortable in the shelter because it is hot and there is no water. I can’t go to school — it’s broken and collapsed. Now my friends are just scattered.”

We watched one Internally Displaced Person (IDP) cooking dinner for the family in her temporary home. Even in the difficult circumstances that she faced, she was still kind and generous, offering us food and water.

Generally, the survivors were friendly and were happy to let us to enter their new spaces. But some were too traumatised. One mother and daughter had suffered terrible trauma and were unable to talk to people about what had happened to them.

The aid workers of Indonesia

A volunteer sorts through emergency supplies in Palu city (Lewis Inman/Arete/DEC)

We came across a local volunteer helping to load aid into a distribution truck. He was happy in his work helping others and happy to be photographed. Thanks to the efforts of those like him, aid was getting through to serve the initial needs of the people, like food, water, tarpaulins and medical assistance.

It was great to work alongside the local staff. Everyone was professional and had a good understanding of the suffering the victims were going through and their personal needs. In turn, working with them helped to give me a better understanding of the situation.

Two young boys pose for a photo in Unisa camp for internally displaced people (Lewis Inman/Arete/DEC)

After three weeks, my visit was coming to an end. It was good to see businesses re-opening, and a sense of normalcy returning. I was amazed at the strength of the people there and thankful to them for sharing their stories with me.

Lewis Inman is an award-winning documentary photographer and filmmaker born in London and now based in the Philippines, covering social issues and commercial commissions worldwide. Lewis received a 1st class honours in Photojournalism & Documentary Photography from University of the Arts London (LCC). Lewis has won many awards including first place prize of the Symons-Hatton Award, recognising his “commitment and dedication to Lens Based Media”.


From the photographer: documenting natural disasters was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


From the photographer: documenting polio vaccinations

- Ismail Taxta

A young girl is given an oral vaccination against polio (Ismail Taxta/Arete/UNICEF)

I have been photographing a national polio vaccination campaign in Mogadishu, Somalia. The campaign is implemented by @UNICEF, which is vaccinating 2.6 million children under five years of age.

The campaign began on Monday October 1 in Banadir region, at around 0700. A group of well-trained vaccinators carrying bags of medicine began their work, from door to door.

UNICEF’s vaccination team make house visits in Banadir (Ismail Taxta/Arete/UNICEF)

The polio campaign is important for the community — to prevent this dangerous disease, all children under five should be vaccinated.

I began my assignment in Hamar Jajab district in central Mogadishu with the UNICEF polio vaccination team, who were spreading awareness to the community using loudspeakers, walking from house to house.

Ibaado Hassan, 47 years-old, is a grandmother with 8 children living in her house in Hamar Jajab. After speaking with the team for a while, she allowed to them to vaccinate the five children in her household under the age of five. She smiled as she thanked the UNICEF team for the polio campaign.

Ibaado sits with her grandchildren as they wait to be vaccinated (Ismail Taxta/Arete/UNICEF)

She told me that she had experienced the danger of childhood disease — two of the children in her family had died from measles 20 years before. At that time, she and many others believed that the vaccination did not prevent disease, but after the information provided by UNICEF, her children now take the vaccination.

I followed the vaccination team for several hours on their door to door campaign. In many houses, more than one families were living, and had several children under five years of age with them.

Mothers wait with their children to receive polio vaccinations (Ismail Taxta/Arete/UNICEF)

After six hours, I travelled to Hamar Wayne, an old district where no buildings have been repaired for the last 20 years. Here, the polio vaccination has been going well.

In the district MCH, health work is underway, and women and children queue in long lines to get free medical treatment, including the polio vaccination. Mothers with their children told me that the vaccination campaign is underway after several days of polio awareness work by UNICEF.

A girl smiles to the camera as she waits to be vaccinated against polio (Ismail Taxta/Arete/UNICEF)

Once more, I escorted the vaccination team on door to door visits, and saw parents thanking the vaccination team for helping them to vaccinate their children.

Ismail Taxta is an Arete photographer based in Mogadishu, Somalia.


From the photographer: documenting polio vaccinations was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.