Born in Zimbabwe, I traveled extensively with my family while young, but my first trip alone was to Romania, following the fall of Ceausescu in 1991.
News of the horrific conditions in which Romania’s unwanted children were being kept had hit the British headlines and I decided to see what I could do to help. I arrived at Negru Voda orphanage in January 1992 after leaving school. It was home to 360 severely disabled children. Many had never left the confines of their wards where they were crammed three to a bed – beating their heads against the walls in violent frustration, or rocking silently to comfort themselves after years of neglect. Romania’s forgotten children had a huge effect on me. At the age of 19 I had no idea the world could be so cruel. I worked there for a year and returned every summer while studying at university.
Realizing that aid work touched the tip of much bigger issues, I turned to journalism as a way to expose these to a wider audience, and those with power to make a difference. After leaving St Andrew’s University, I joined the BBC’s News and Current Affairs department and subsequently went on to study photojournalism at the London College of Printing.
Traveling to Bosnia in the wake of the war I continued on to Albania to document the refugees who flooded over the border from Kosova in 1999. The post conflict environment of the Balkans fascinated me and I became aware that the most vulnerable people, primarily women and children, were slipping through the net of international aid, which opened them up to exploitation and abuse. Returning to Bosnia, I spent a year uncovering the exploding sex slave trade – young girls trafficked from Romania, Moldova and the Ukraine being bought and sold as commodities, primarily to service the sexual needs of the International Community. This was the first time the issue of women being trafficked from Eastern Europe for sexual use had been exposed.
Moving on to work in DR Congo in 2003 I uncovered extensive sexual abuse of young girls by UN peace keepers, as well as high level cover ups of the issue by UN personnel in New York. The findings of this story forced Kofi Annan, then Secretary General of the United Nations, to announce a “zero tolerance” policy within the UN to sexual exploitation.
Backed by The Independent Newspaper, I continued to investigate the issue, which eventually led to the forced resignation of the head of the UNHCR, Rudd Lubbers.
Nominated three times for the Amnesty Award for Humanitarian reporting, as well as the Prix Pictet Photographic Award, I have worked extensively throughout Africa and Afghanistan for the last 15 years. As well as covering news events, like the Kenyan Election Crisis in 2008 and return to war in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008 and 2012, I have also committed to longer term projects in Somalia. In 2011 I was embedded with African Union Troops from Uganda and Burundi while they recaptured Mogadishu. I spent two years in Afghanistan, between 2009 and 2012 covering the elections and surge in military support by the coalition troops and was embedded with troops from both the UK and US. I continue to work throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia with an increasing emphasis on training; and building the capacity of people I work with to tell their own stories. As a regular contributor to The Guardian I continue to document important stories that are often missed by mainstream media.