Arete’s Stories: Documenting a changing world; how reporting on the climate crisis impacts…

Arete’s Stories: Documenting a changing world; how reporting on the climate crisis impacts journalists’ mental health with Siegfried Modola & Aaron Palabyab

Photo: Siegfried Modola. A girl gestures during torrential rain in Chakmarkul, part of the refugee camp sheltering over 800,000 Rohingya refugees, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Children are the most vulnerable to waterborne diseases, and there are more than 100,000 of them at risk during flooding.

COP26 is coming to Glasgow on the 31st of October, and with it, the eyes of the world as the UN brings together world leaders to discuss and align on climate change action.

Around the world, storms, floods and wildfires are intensifying. Air pollution is affecting the health of tens of millions of people and unpredictable weather Is causing untold damage to homes and livelihoods.

In the lead up to the 26th Conference of the Parties, we sat down with two of our photographers that have spent years documenting natural disasters. We sought to discuss how, as environmentalists, they handle the personal and emotional weight of photographing worsening climate events year after year, how they justify what they do in light of climate grief and journalistic burnout, and more.

We start with Siegfried Modola…

Siegfried Modola is a Kenya raised independent Italian/British photojournalist and documentary photographer focusing on social, humanitarian and geopolitical events worldwide. He is based between Nairobi and Paris.

Siegfried has reported in over a dozen countries across Africa and worked in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and South America, and regularly contributes to news agencies such as Reuters and humanitarian organisations such as UNICEF, UNHCR and others via Arete. His photographs have appeared in some of the most prominent international publications such as Time, the New York Times, L’Express, Le Monde, Liberation, Figaro, Paris Match, Geo, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

Siegfried is currently working on a long-term personal project on the impact of air pollution on marginalised communities around the world. You can read Siegfried’s piece on air pollution in Afghanistan here: https://aretegazette.com/2021/09/23/afghanistan-battles-air-pollution/

Siegfried, can you tell us a little about the environmental disasters or events that you have covered over the years?

“Much of my work over the years has involved climate change-induced events. Being based in East Africa for a while meant that I have covered a lot of droughts. These are not new, but in recent years they have been reoccurring at a higher frequency and with more intensity.

Events that really stick in my mind are the major drought in Somalia in 2011, where thousands and thousands of people died, and the work I did covering the fleeing Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

Photo: Siegfried Modola. Rohingya refugees shield from the rain in Balukhali, Camp 10, part of the refugee camp sheltering over 800,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Bangladesh suffers intense cyclonic storms and some of the heaviest monsoon rains on earth.

This event in Bangladesh, in particular, is where you witness that climate change isn’t necessarily caused solely by industry or the burning of fossil fuels. covered one of the largest refugee camps in the world on the Bangladesh border with Myanmar, which housed almost 1 million people.

This sprawling camp led to complete destruction of the local environment in a country where climate change and rising sea levels have already had a devastating effect. There are no natural barriers left to halt the floodwater, and the refugees have no way to defend themselves; they aren’t even allowed to build any form of concrete structure to protect them from the rising sea levels and flooding.

Photo: Siegfried Modola. A mother gestures in grief as others stand close to the beds of their children suffering from lung infections at a government-run hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan. Doctor Farid Ahmad Andishmond, a paediatrician at the hospital, believes that the spike of cases of pneumonia and other lung infections among children is directly linked to the increase of pollution in the capital and other cities in Afghanistan. Many families in the city cannot afford electricity. Instead, they are left with no other choice but to burn whatever they can find to keep their homes warm, he explains while doing the rounds through the room, between the beds of sick children.

In more recent years, I have been working on a personal project to understand, through photography, how the issues of air pollution are affecting the world’s most marginalised communities. It is often one of the impacts of climate change that can fly under the radar, as it is much more difficult to visualise versus something as dramatic as a flood or hurricane.”

How contributary do you think climate change is to these environmental disasters you have witnessed?

“Certainly, with something like air pollution, it is clear that the burning of fossil fuels and dirty fuel is the cause, and causing an impact, on the climate as a whole. We cannot argue this anymore; we can see world events getting worse every year.

Photo: Siegfried Modola. Coal merchants wait for customers in Kabul, Afghanistan. The capital Kabul, a city of some 6 million, ranks as one of the most polluted cities in the world — contesting amongst other polluted capitals such as India’s New Delhi or China’s Beijing. Many cannot afford electricity and so burn coal, garbage, plastic and rubber in their homes to keep warm during the cold winter months. Old vehicles and generators that run on poor quality fuel release vast amounts of toxins into the city’s air.

In my opinion, the climate has definitely shifted, it has become more violent, and it is the poorest communities around the world that are suffering the most. In East Africa, where I have lived and grown-up, the droughts are getting worse and worse. Crops might not grow because of the lack of rain, and it is the people who depend on these crops to survive who are dying.

Photo: Siegfried Modola. Women herd goats towards one of the few water points in the drought-stricken region of northern Kenya. Malnutrition among children is peaking at dangerous levels, and herders fear that it is a matter of weeks before their cattle start to die.

As a photojournalist it is clear that the climate is changing, I see it everywhere I go.”

How does it make you feel, witnessing these events year on year, while in some places around the world, climate change is touted as a myth?

“I am not a scientist or an expert. I prefer to be a visual narrator. I use the photos and stories I capture to help raise awareness of these issues, to show the world there is a problem, there is an issue — and let them build their own opinion.

Photo: Siegfried Modola. Sadi, starts to prepare food in her kitchen’s home in Malkoruqua village, northeastern Kenya.

I find it hard not to be a pessimist in all this when you know that during the course of the world’s history that the industrialisation of society has led to a huge amount of fossil fuels being removed from the earth and spewed into the atmosphere.

I feel obligated to cover the effects of climate change, despite how much these stories weigh on my conscience. To approach a story, you need to dive deep into people’s lives. You realise how vital the local climate is to them; when the next rain falls, how their homes would be washed away if a flood were to hit.

On the one hand, it is upsetting covering these stories. You feel that you are always chasing your own tail. Going around covering the same issues, with the same root cause and not enough real action being implemented.

On the other side, I can see that awareness is rising, particularly in the younger generations. We are moving in the right direction. It might still take years, but do we have those years?

Photo: Siegfried Modola. Women and children wait to be registered prior to a food distribution carried out by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Thonyor, Leer County, South Sudan

If it is too late, what will this mean? How many more people will I document being affected by these issues? How many more people will die? Now we are witnessing that it doesn’t just affect the farmer in India; it affects almost everyone in their homes, cities in Europe, and America. I am hopeful that this will act as a catalyst for the world to act collectively and make a change for good.”

Next, we spoke with Aaron Palabyab…

Aaron shooting in Dinapigue, Isabela, an isolated coastal town in northeastern Philippines.

Aaron Palabyab is a filmmaker and a photographer specialising in travel-oriented content. He also works as a cameraman/videographer around the Philippines and the world.

Based in Metro Manila, in the Philippines, Aaron has won multiple awards for his film and photography and works for organisations including Fujifilm Philippines, Uniqlo, DHL International, the United Nations World Food Programme, GRID Magazine, UNESCO, Arete, and more.

Can you start by telling us a little about the environmental disasters or events that you have covered over the years?

“Living in the Philippines, I have mainly covered the aftermath of typhoons and a volcanic eruption. In the last four years, I have covered at least seven typhoons. Ketsana was the one that really sticks in my memory.

Photo: Aaron Palabyab. Marisa during clean-up operations in her subdivision, which was deluged with mud during major floods during Typhoon Ketsana in 2009.

The eastern side of the Philippines is more affected by severe weather, and the capital Manila is usually insulated from the worst of the weather. But typhoon Ketsana ripped through the capital city. Non-stop driving rain for days, areas of the city buried in mud, and a complete breakdown of social structure — people stuck on roofs, looting, etc. It was an unprecedented disaster, and it has been a very long time since a typhoon of this intensity has affected the capital city.”

How contributary do you think climate change is to these environmental disasters you have witnessed?

“There can be no doubt that the climate has changed dramatically in the Philippines since I was growing up. I remember a strong typhoon in 2009, and even then, it felt like it was a warning; it felt like it was a taste of things to come — and many of us felt that way.

In the Philippines, we have felt for a while it is not a question of if a huge disaster will hit Manila, but when. With each and every Typhoon that hits, you hear that it is record-breaking, more severe than the last. I don’t think it is a coincidence that as issues of climate change are becoming more pronounced, typhoons in my home country are getting more & more intense.”

Photo: Aaron Palabyab. A house by the coast destroyed during Typhoon Kammuri in Pilar, Sorsogon.

How does it make you feel, witnessing these events year on year, while elsewhere in the world, bad practices are continuing?

“In a place like the Philippines, a regard for the environment is just part of your everyday thinking for the most part. We are kind of on the front lines of climate change, next to the Pacific Islands. It is not just typhoons but also extremely hot summers and droughts.

I feel if we don’t all take care of this, if we are not all environmentalists, then we are not taking care of ourselves. In a developing country, priorities can be more about economics than the environment so it is difficult, and I understand that. But at what cost?

We don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing to believe in environmentalism. Climate change isn’t a political debate here. There aren’t people saying this isn’t real. But it is definitely something that can be more emphasised.

It is upsetting when you see people arguing climate change isn’t real. When you see the debates happening around the world about whether it is worth attention. I do get angry; it is a matter of privilege to not be impacted by this.

I think that is why the work we do as photographers is so important because we need to do what we can to make it feel as real as possible to people who have the luxury of being insulated from all of this. It is very frustrating to feel that this can still be a political debate when it is so real.

Photo: Aaron Palabyab. Villagers calmly wait under cover as a thunderstorm passes in Surigao province in the Philippines

When I go out to the provinces to document the after-effects of the typhoons, it is a wake-up call. In Manila, we are quite insulated, but when I see the devastating effects first-hand, it is unimaginable what people are going through.

It really prompts a lot of reflection and gives a lot of perspective. It prompts you to be extremely humble to have not been touched, but also a huge sense of compassion, I know I am just a photographer, but I want to do what I can to help, to contribute to the solution.

I have discovered on recent assignments, particularly with Arete, when the people you have travelled to help and document see you and see you with a camera. It means a lot to them; they want you to tell their story; they believe it will help them get the support they need.

So if my photos and stories can help get assistance for people, if my photos can make a difference. Then that helps me feel like I have made an impact and certainly helps balance out the sadness and stress of documenting these climate change events year on year.”

Photo: Aaron Palabyab. Aerial view of Taal Volcano in June 2021. The volcano is the most active in the country and one of the most active in the world.

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Refugee to Entrepreneur

Last week, UK Charity, Opportunity International, opened an outdoor photo exhibition in London, created by award-winning photographer Kate Holt. The exhibition features a series of life-size photographs of the refugees Kate met in Uganda and invites visitors to “spend an evening walking amongst the remarkable individuals.” Hosted by St James Church in Piccadilly it is open daily from 0900 – 1730; entry is free. 

In this Blog, Photographer Kate Holt talks about the inspirational people she met.

Kate Holt is pictured behind the scenes on assignment for Opportunity International in Nakivale refugee camp, Uganda.

It seems a long time ago that we were able to step on a plane without doing a Covid Test and worrying if you would ever be allowed back into the UK if you dared to travel and were able to pay the price of 10 nights in a quarantine hotel.

This trip to Uganda to gather these stories is one of the last I did before Covid struck.

Yet the power of the stories we were told back then, and what I learned from the people I met, is now more relevant than ever.

Since this story, there are now nearly 30 million refugees in the world – with the number rising daily. With the crisis in Afghanistan continuing to unfold, it is estimated that over 2 million more refugees will cross into neighbouring countries within the next year.

Refugees queue for food at Nakivale Refugee Camp, Isingoro District, Uganda.

Ongoing political instability, the effects of climate change increasing populations and proliferation of cheap weapons, have left countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Somalia and Burundi more fragile than ever. Every day thousands of people move across the region – escaping war, famine and fear.

Uganda, one of the more stable countries in the region now plays host to nearly a million and half refugees officially – unofficially it is estimated that nearly 3 million have found sanctuary there.

It is easy to lose perspective on the human face of this crisis when confronted by such numbers.

The refugees we met in Nakivale all had powerful stories to tell of why they had ended up fleeing there, and what their hopes for the future were.

Refugees queue for food at Nakivale Refugee Camp, Isingoro District, Uganda.

Therese fled from the Congo with her children after her husband was killed by rebel soldiers in their house

She arrived in Nakivale with hardly anything because they had to leave their home so quickly.

Therese poses for a photograph in the reception centre that she is living in with her 7 children in Nakivale Refugee Camp, Isingoro District, Uganda.

Living in the reception centre in a small shelter made of plastic, she is lucky if they get porridge once a day or sometimes maize. All she wants is the opportunity to be able to set up a business selling beans like she used to have in the Congo. “I don’t want Aid – I just want a business so I can feed my children and send them to school.”

Therese poses for a photograph with her children in the reception centre that she is living in Nakivale Refugee Camp Isingoro District, Uganda.

Gentil is an artist we met who had escaped from Burundi. He used to run workshops for young artists and was accused by the government of training rebel soldiers, so he had to flee. He now lives with his grandmother and the nephews and nieces who he supports in Nakivale.

Gentil, a 34-year-old artist from Burundi, poses for a photograph with one of his paintings at his home in Nakivale Refugee Camp, Isingoro District, Uganda.

He was able to do financial training with Opportunity International and got a small loan to set up a business farming chickens. He is now able to start painting again and hopes that soon he will be able to make a living from being an artist like he was in Burundi.

He also hopes to be able to motivate other refugees into setting up businesses so they can become self-sufficient and not dependent on food handouts.

Gentil, a 34-year-old artist from Burundi feeds his chickens at his home in Nakivale Refugee Camp, Isingoro District, Uganda.

Bitalie was one of the sadder stories we encountered.

A tailor by profession, she fled from the Congo after her village was attacked by rebel soldiers and her neighbours were all killed. She fled along with her four children, husband and brother’s family into the bush.

She lost them all while running through the night. Eventually, she found her way to Nakivale.

She was alone and wanted to know what had happened to her family so she sold what little food aid she was given to buy a bus fare to go back to Congo.

Bitalie poses for a photograph in her workshop in Nakivale Refugee Camp, Isingoro District, Uganda.

She spent months looking for them but with no luck. But while she was there a local Church gave her an old sewing machine though and she returned with it on the bus.

Being given a sewing machine was her opportunity.

She received financial training from Opportunity International and got a small loan to help her set up a business.

Now she sews and repairs clothes in the camp and has a regular income. Her ultimate dream though is to find her family.

Bitalie uses her sewing machine in her workshop in Nakivale Refugee Camp, Isingoro District, Uganda. Nakivale is home to over 120,000 refugees from Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo Burundi and Somalia. Every week around 400 new refugees arrive from the DRC as violence escalates among rebel groups.

All the refugees we met had all experienced traumatic events, extraordinary upheaval and loss. But they all remain determined to make their lives better by running a business to improve their lives and those of their families.

They aren’t asking for much.

They are asking for an opportunity.

Photos by Eden Sparke at Opportunity International’s launch evening for their Refugee to Entrepreneur exhibition in St James, Piccadilly, United Kingdom.

Footnotes

Text by Kate Holt and photos by Kate Holt (Uganda) and Eden Sparke (London)


Arete’s Stories: A year in COVID from the UK & India, told by Vijay Pandey and Leon Neal

Photo: Vijay Pandey/Arete. A masked security guard stands outside a cremation ground in New Delhi, India.

As the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding COVID-19 continue in the UK and some other countries, vaccination rates are on the rise, and COVID-19 deaths are falling. This has come after almost two years of ongoing social and technological battles with the virus.

The extraordinary work of the brave photographers who have been documenting this global pandemic must not be underestimated. Unlike photographing sub-genres of war, or natural disasters, these photographers aren’t offered hazard pay and are mostly self-insured. Despite this, they continue to capture the unfiltered stories that will go down in history.

We spoke with two such photographers, Vijay Pandey, who has been documenting the effects of Covid-19 and lockdown in India, and Leon Neal, who has been documenting the pandemic in the UK.

These are their stories…

Vijay Pandey, India

Vijay Pandey has spent over 20 years in India working with both National Publications and VICE News. In recent years, Vijay has ventured into freelance photojournalism, covering a broad range of news events including the Nepal earthquake, the Indian conflict between parliamentarian & Maoist supporters, the Delhi Riots of 2020 and, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Where have you been covering Covid in the last year?

“I have lived and worked in New Delhi for nearly two decades and covered the pandemic since it first started to take hold in the spring of 2020, both in New Delhi and in surrounding districts. I continue to do this.

While always very careful to take safety precautions — gloves, double masks, disinfectant and eye protection — I still consider myself incredibly lucky not to have contracted the virus or to have had any close friends or family die or fall seriously ill. But I do know that several photojournalists have died in India during the pandemic, some of them former colleagues from the field.”

Photo: Vijay Pandey/Arete. A homeless boy sits on a deserted street as New Delhi continues under lockdown during the Coronavirus Pandemic in New Delhi, India. In the bustling market of Chandni Chowk in front of the famous Red Fort, there are only homeless, beggars and migrant labour as all shops and establishments are closed.

What was the general response to Covid in India?

“The initial response from many people was of panic. Mass migration started very quickly after the first lockdown started. Thousands of people just left the cities and started walking, fleeing the city to return to more rural areas. All the trains and buses were suspended, so there was no other option.

Photo: Vijay Pandey/Arete. Migrant workers rush to board the final buses to reach their native places, in the outskirts of Delhi, India.

Those with the lowest income were undoubtedly the worst affected in the first wave, people who live hand to mouth. They had no other option but to leave urban areas and walk back to their family homes. With many people in lockdown in the cities, many job opportunities have gone, and many people can no longer afford their rent.

Photo: Vijay Pandey/Arete. Migrant workers returning from rural parts of the country at Kaushambi bus terminal in the outskirts of New Delhi. Amid absence of skilled employment in villages, migrant workers who left for home during coronavirus lockdown are returning to Cities.

There was very little government support, no transport, food or water. And reported beatings by the police forces of people who were walking home — as, technically, they were out after curfew.

Photo: Vijay Pandey/Arete. A construction labourer Hari Om holds his eight months old son while walking back to his native village in Tikamgarh, Madhya Pradesh, in New Delhi. Tikamgarh is approximately 550 kms from Delhi. As the work was stopped and contractors ask the labourers to leave the construction site, migrant labourers who fear dying not of the disease but rather of starvation, have decided not to wait. Unable to afford food and rent, migrant workers are walking back to their native villages, hundreds of miles away, during the World’s largest Lockdown.

About 25% of people were forced to leave the cities; if you worked for the government or had savings, you were ok, but those in the private sector or gig economy were not supported. This lack of support, and response from the government, provoked a lot of anger towards the establishment.

This led the government to relaxing lockdown measures after two months. There are almost no jobs in rural India, so people returned to the cities. Despite Covid-19 still raging and many, many people dying every day, people were flooding back into the cities.

Although it may seem like a simple choice between your health and your pocket, it was not for many. Both would result in death, but at least there was a chance this wouldn’t happen if you caught Covid-19; death was almost certain if you had no job and no income.

Photo: Vijay Pandey/Arete. Relatives of a person who died of COVID 19 performing the last rites during cremation at Nigambodh Ghat crematorium in New Delhi, India.

It was very clear in India, what the priorities were during the pandemic, and it wasn’t the lives of most of the people. When local party elections came around, they were not postponed, the rallies went ahead, and many of the politicians did not wear masks and set a good example.

Thousands of people would gather for the rallies, which acted like a super-spreader event, and the result was thousands of deaths, particularly of many teachers who were required to do election duty”.

What are the challenges of trying to convey the pandemic through photography?

“I think there are two really challenging things. It was the first pandemic of this scale I have seen, and in my home country too. The first, and obvious, challenge is the risk to my own health.

Particularly when I was in the hospitals, I was really worried that I might catch Covid; the health system was overwhelmed, there were people everywhere, on the floors, the corridors.

Photo: Vijay Pandey/Arete. The body of the man who died of coronavirus (COVID-19) kept in a waiting room before the funeral at Nigambodh Crematorium in New Delhi.

The hospitals were full, and the cremation grounds were full. Bodies were being burned in parking lots because there was no space left. The chimneys in the cremation grounds were melting as they were working 24/7. It was awful.

Photo: Vijay Pandey/Arete. Bodies of Coronavirus (Covid19) victims lay before being cremated at Gazipur crematorium in New Delhi.

This second really challenging thing is what the pandemic did to my soul; the helplessness and guilt I felt.

People were turning to me and asking for help to find them hospital beds or oxygen cylinders. I tried, but I couldn’t do anything. I saw people dying outside of the hospital, waiting for treatments; there was no oxygen, beds or medicine.

Photo: Vijay Pandey/Arete. Women mourn during the cremation of a person who died of COVID-19 at Nigambodh Ghat crematorium in New Delhi, India.

I saw people carrying patients from one hospital to another, searching for a bed. Children were dying in front of me, gasping for air.

Experiencing this made me really sad. But I felt I had to do it; had to keep on photographing. The only hope I have is that sharing these stories and photographs on my channels will somehow lead to some action, some more help for these people”.

Leon Neal, United Kingdom

Leon Neal is a winner of The Times/Tabasco Young Photographer of the Year scholarship and a former Times. Leon also spent ten years working in a staff position at the world’s oldest global news agency, Agence France-Presse (AFP), before moving to the Getty Images editorial team based in London. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.

Tell me about where you have been covering Covid in the last year?

“For the best part of 2020, I was covering COVID-19 in the UK. My first experience of how this new virus would be received came when I witnessed the arrival of a flight of citizens being repatriated via RAF Brize Norton, escorted on to coaches by a team in hazmat suits, but then driven away by a very concerned looking driver, wearing just his regular cardigan and no facemask. This confusion of how to go forward became a theme for the coming year.

Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images. A concerned-looking coach driver tasked with transporting a number of repatriated citizens from RAF Brize Norton.

Based in London, the effects of COVID-19 induced lockdowns became obvious quite quickly. London’s theatres, stores, and tourist attractions closed their doors, and the capital fell silent.

In fact, the streets were so empty that it presented a great opportunity to head out and record some of London’s iconic landmarks in this new, deserted world. I’d ticked off a few by the time I arrived at the pedestrian crossing outside Abbey Road studios, made famous by The Beatles.

Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images. Line repainting on the famous Abbey Road zebra crossing.

I waited around forty minutes for someone to cross, but the streets were deserted. Suddenly, an enormous brightly-painted truck pulled up next to the crossing, which I then realised was a highway maintenance vehicle. With traffic at a bare minimum, the local council were also seizing the opportunity presented by the unique nature of lockdown to repaint the lines on this iconic zebra crossing.

In May, I had my first experience documenting the important work to tackle COVID-19 head-on, being carried out by the NHS daily. I spent some time with the South Central Ambulance Service team around the Southampton area. Thanks to a pool arrangement negotiated by photographer Will Oliver, the NHS allowed each agency the opportunity to document a different area of support and care, and Getty Images was lucky enough to secure time with SCAS.

Photo: Leon Neal/ Getty Images. Ambulances of the South Central Ambulance Service queued up to deliver suspected Covid-19 positive patients to hospital.

Hearing the stories of how many of the ambulance crew members and paramedics had already suffered through COVID-19, with some members of the team still in hospital on ventilators, gave me a far greater awareness of infection and precautions. The mental and physical toil faced by the teams was overlaid with the type of humour that I recognised from my colleagues in the news media; a reliance on each other to get through what can feel like a daily onslaught of downward-spiralling news.

Having to treat each call as if the patient is COVID-positive adds an extra layer of duty and precaution. The smallest slip or shortcut taken could potentially lead to further infections among your friends and colleagues. As I returned to my hotel each evening, I went through a methodical clean of all my camera equipment, phone and other items used through the day before starting again the next day. When you think of all the items in an ambulance, you start to realise the huge scale of logistics involved with the new normal.”

What was the general response to Covid in the UK? How were people striking a balance between earning a living and adhering to lockdown?

“Restrictions and lockdowns of varying strengths continued throughout the year.

The public were adopting the old adage; adapt and survive. Driving home one day, I passed a couple who had created their own alfresco gym next to their housing block. Elsewhere, Reverend Lucy Winkett, rector of St James’ Piccadilly, invited me to attend as she battled technology to hold one of her first online services.

Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images. A family brings their gym equipment outside and trains on the street next to their housing block.

Businesses, too, were facing incredible pressures. Among those struggling, taxi drivers had seen a total collapse in their fares. A virtual ban on international travel resulted in no passengers or tourists arriving, and the taxi ranks around London’s airports were packed with waiting cars but no business.

At London Heathrow, I was able to speak with just a few of those in the queue to pick up a customer. Again and again, I heard the same story; as fares dried up, drivers were forced to wait for enormous lengths of time between customers. Many I spoke to were sleeping in their cabs and waiting as long as thirty-five hours to make their way to the front of the line. At the end of all of that, the average fare was working out to be around £40.

Covid-induced lockdowns created a unique circumstance for many people in the UK, particularly the self-employed and those who fell through the gaps of the various government support schemes. My partner is a wedding photographer, and she was luckily able to claim financial support due to the total collapse of that industry. Continuing to work was a necessity for many, and paid leave wasn’t an option; although many in the UK are lucky to have such an option, this wasn’t the case for millions of others around the world. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to see your business or position disappear as the months passed.”

What are the challenges of trying to convey the pandemic through photography?

Both professionally and personally, the pandemic has provided huge challenges. In my work, the biggest issue was accessing institutions, who only really opened their doors to the media much later into the crisis. Months were spent sending out emails and calling organisations in a bid to illustrate the heart of the story, rather than the lighter stories around the edge, such as the weekly Clap For Carers. Looking at how colleagues overseas were working inside ICUs, funeral homes and care homes, while it was such a battle to get anything in the UK, was deeply frustrating.

Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images. Paramedics of the South Central Ambulance Service attend to a suspected Covid-19 positive patient on the street.

In my personal life, the pressure in the early stages of the pandemic was substantial. As Government warnings told the public to stay indoors and keep away from others, members of the media were doing all they could to get into the hotspots. Looking back now, it’s easy to be dismissive of the threat, but, at this point, knowledge on the dangers, transmission and long-term effects were scarce, so that mixed message put a lot of pressure onto me. Returning home each day, my family would stay in another room while I removed my clothes, showered, cleaned my cameras, phone, keys etc before I was able to speak with them. After months of this, it was hard to remain buoyant at times.

We source and manage local experts in photography, video, digital and written content from around the world to help you tell stories that make a difference, working with you in the office or the field.

Contact us to find out how we can help you make an impact through exceptional storytelling and targeted communications strategies


Arete’s Stories: A year in COVID from the UK & India, told by Vijay Pandey and Leon Neal

Photo: Vijay Pandey/Arete. A masked security guard stands outside a cremation ground in New Delhi, India.

As the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding COVID-19 continue in the UK and some other countries, vaccination rates are on the rise, and COVID-19 deaths are falling. This has come after almost two years of ongoing social and technological battles with the virus.

The extraordinary work of the brave photographers who have been documenting this global pandemic must not be underestimated. Unlike photographing sub-genres of war, or natural disasters, these photographers aren’t offered hazard pay and are mostly self-insured. Despite this, they continue to capture the unfiltered stories that will go down in history.

We spoke with two such photographers, Vijay Pandey, who has been documenting the effects of Covid-19 and lockdown in India, and Leon Neal, who has been documenting the pandemic in the UK.

These are their stories…

Vijay Pandey, India

Vijay Pandey has spent over 20 years in India working with both National Publications and VICE News. In recent years, Vijay has ventured into freelance photojournalism, covering a broad range of news events including the Nepal earthquake, the Indian conflict between parliamentarian & Maoist supporters, the Delhi Riots of 2020 and, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Where have you been covering Covid in the last year?

“I have lived and worked in New Delhi for nearly two decades and covered the pandemic since it first started to take hold in the spring of 2020, both in New Delhi and in surrounding districts. I continue to do this.

While always very careful to take safety precautions — gloves, double masks, disinfectant and eye protection — I still consider myself incredibly lucky not to have contracted the virus or to have had any close friends or family die or fall seriously ill. But I do know that several photojournalists have died in India during the pandemic, some of them former colleagues from the field.”

Photo: Vijay Pandey/Arete. A homeless boy sits on a deserted street as New Delhi continues under lockdown during the Coronavirus Pandemic in New Delhi, India. In the bustling market of Chandni Chowk in front of the famous Red Fort, there are only homeless, beggars and migrant labour as all shops and establishments are closed.

What was the general response to Covid in India?

“The initial response from many people was of panic. Mass migration started very quickly after the first lockdown started. Thousands of people just left the cities and started walking, fleeing the city to return to more rural areas. All the trains and buses were suspended, so there was no other option.

Photo: Vijay Pandey/Arete. Migrant workers rush to board the final buses to reach their native places, in the outskirts of Delhi, India.

Those with the lowest income were undoubtedly the worst affected in the first wave, people who live hand to mouth. They had no other option but to leave urban areas and walk back to their family homes. With many people in lockdown in the cities, many job opportunities have gone, and many people can no longer afford their rent.

Photo: Vijay Pandey/Arete. Migrant workers returning from rural parts of the country at Kaushambi bus terminal in the outskirts of New Delhi. Amid absence of skilled employment in villages, migrant workers who left for home during coronavirus lockdown are returning to Cities.

There was very little government support, no transport, food or water. And reported beatings by the police forces of people who were walking home — as, technically, they were out after curfew.

Photo: Vijay Pandey/Arete. A construction labourer Hari Om holds his eight months old son while walking back to his native village in Tikamgarh, Madhya Pradesh, in New Delhi. Tikamgarh is approximately 550 kms from Delhi. As the work was stopped and contractors ask the labourers to leave the construction site, migrant labourers who fear dying not of the disease but rather of starvation, have decided not to wait. Unable to afford food and rent, migrant workers are walking back to their native villages, hundreds of miles away, during the World’s largest Lockdown.

About 25% of people were forced to leave the cities; if you worked for the government or had savings, you were ok, but those in the private sector or gig economy were not supported. This lack of support, and response from the government, provoked a lot of anger towards the establishment.

This led the government to relaxing lockdown measures after two months. There are almost no jobs in rural India, so people returned to the cities. Despite Covid-19 still raging and many, many people dying every day, people were flooding back into the cities.

Although it may seem like a simple choice between your health and your pocket, it was not for many. Both would result in death, but at least there was a chance this wouldn’t happen if you caught Covid-19; death was almost certain if you had no job and no income.

Photo: Vijay Pandey/Arete. Relatives of a person who died of COVID 19 performing the last rites during cremation at Nigambodh Ghat crematorium in New Delhi, India.

It was very clear in India, what the priorities were during the pandemic, and it wasn’t the lives of most of the people. When local party elections came around, they were not postponed, the rallies went ahead, and many of the politicians did not wear masks and set a good example.

Thousands of people would gather for the rallies, which acted like a super-spreader event, and the result was thousands of deaths, particularly of many teachers who were required to do election duty”.

What are the challenges of trying to convey the pandemic through photography?

“I think there are two really challenging things. It was the first pandemic of this scale I have seen, and in my home country too. The first, and obvious, challenge is the risk to my own health.

Particularly when I was in the hospitals, I was really worried that I might catch Covid; the health system was overwhelmed, there were people everywhere, on the floors, the corridors.

Photo: Vijay Pandey/Arete. The body of the man who died of coronavirus (COVID-19) kept in a waiting room before the funeral at Nigambodh Crematorium in New Delhi.

The hospitals were full, and the cremation grounds were full. Bodies were being burned in parking lots because there was no space left. The chimneys in the cremation grounds were melting as they were working 24/7. It was awful.

Photo: Vijay Pandey/Arete. Bodies of Coronavirus (Covid19) victims lay before being cremated at Gazipur crematorium in New Delhi.

This second really challenging thing is what the pandemic did to my soul; the helplessness and guilt I felt.

People were turning to me and asking for help to find them hospital beds or oxygen cylinders. I tried, but I couldn’t do anything. I saw people dying outside of the hospital, waiting for treatments; there was no oxygen, beds or medicine.

Photo: Vijay Pandey/Arete. Women mourn during the cremation of a person who died of COVID-19 at Nigambodh Ghat crematorium in New Delhi, India.

I saw people carrying patients from one hospital to another, searching for a bed. Children were dying in front of me, gasping for air.

Experiencing this made me really sad. But I felt I had to do it; had to keep on photographing. The only hope I have is that sharing these stories and photographs on my channels will somehow lead to some action, some more help for these people”.

Leon Neal, United Kingdom

Leon Neal is a winner of The Times/Tabasco Young Photographer of the Year scholarship and a former Times. Leon also spent ten years working in a staff position at the world’s oldest global news agency, Agence France-Presse (AFP), before moving to the Getty Images editorial team based in London. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.

Tell me about where you have been covering Covid in the last year?

“For the best part of 2020, I was covering COVID-19 in the UK. My first experience of how this new virus would be received came when I witnessed the arrival of a flight of citizens being repatriated via RAF Brize Norton, escorted on to coaches by a team in hazmat suits, but then driven away by a very concerned looking driver, wearing just his regular cardigan and no facemask. This confusion of how to go forward became a theme for the coming year.

Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images. A concerned-looking coach driver tasked with transporting a number of repatriated citizens from RAF Brize Norton.

Based in London, the effects of COVID-19 induced lockdowns became obvious quite quickly. London’s theatres, stores, and tourist attractions closed their doors, and the capital fell silent.

In fact, the streets were so empty that it presented a great opportunity to head out and record some of London’s iconic landmarks in this new, deserted world. I’d ticked off a few by the time I arrived at the pedestrian crossing outside Abbey Road studios, made famous by The Beatles.

Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images. Line repainting on the famous Abbey Road zebra crossing.

I waited around forty minutes for someone to cross, but the streets were deserted. Suddenly, an enormous brightly-painted truck pulled up next to the crossing, which I then realised was a highway maintenance vehicle. With traffic at a bare minimum, the local council were also seizing the opportunity presented by the unique nature of lockdown to repaint the lines on this iconic zebra crossing.

In May, I had my first experience documenting the important work to tackle COVID-19 head-on, being carried out by the NHS daily. I spent some time with the South Central Ambulance Service team around the Southampton area. Thanks to a pool arrangement negotiated by photographer Will Oliver, the NHS allowed each agency the opportunity to document a different area of support and care, and Getty Images was lucky enough to secure time with SCAS.

Photo: Leon Neal/ Getty Images. Ambulances of the South Central Ambulance Service queued up to deliver suspected Covid-19 positive patients to hospital.

Hearing the stories of how many of the ambulance crew members and paramedics had already suffered through COVID-19, with some members of the team still in hospital on ventilators, gave me a far greater awareness of infection and precautions. The mental and physical toil faced by the teams was overlaid with the type of humour that I recognised from my colleagues in the news media; a reliance on each other to get through what can feel like a daily onslaught of downward-spiralling news.

Having to treat each call as if the patient is COVID-positive adds an extra layer of duty and precaution. The smallest slip or shortcut taken could potentially lead to further infections among your friends and colleagues. As I returned to my hotel each evening, I went through a methodical clean of all my camera equipment, phone and other items used through the day before starting again the next day. When you think of all the items in an ambulance, you start to realise the huge scale of logistics involved with the new normal.”

What was the general response to Covid in the UK? How were people striking a balance between earning a living and adhering to lockdown?

“Restrictions and lockdowns of varying strengths continued throughout the year.

The public were adopting the old adage; adapt and survive. Driving home one day, I passed a couple who had created their own alfresco gym next to their housing block. Elsewhere, Reverend Lucy Winkett, rector of St James’ Piccadilly, invited me to attend as she battled technology to hold one of her first online services.

Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images. A family brings their gym equipment outside and trains on the street next to their housing block.

Businesses, too, were facing incredible pressures. Among those struggling, taxi drivers had seen a total collapse in their fares. A virtual ban on international travel resulted in no passengers or tourists arriving, and the taxi ranks around London’s airports were packed with waiting cars but no business.

At London Heathrow, I was able to speak with just a few of those in the queue to pick up a customer. Again and again, I heard the same story; as fares dried up, drivers were forced to wait for enormous lengths of time between customers. Many I spoke to were sleeping in their cabs and waiting as long as thirty-five hours to make their way to the front of the line. At the end of all of that, the average fare was working out to be around £40.

Covid-induced lockdowns created a unique circumstance for many people in the UK, particularly the self-employed and those who fell through the gaps of the various government support schemes. My partner is a wedding photographer, and she was luckily able to claim financial support due to the total collapse of that industry. Continuing to work was a necessity for many, and paid leave wasn’t an option; although many in the UK are lucky to have such an option, this wasn’t the case for millions of others around the world. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to see your business or position disappear as the months passed.”

What are the challenges of trying to convey the pandemic through photography?

Both professionally and personally, the pandemic has provided huge challenges. In my work, the biggest issue was accessing institutions, who only really opened their doors to the media much later into the crisis. Months were spent sending out emails and calling organisations in a bid to illustrate the heart of the story, rather than the lighter stories around the edge, such as the weekly Clap For Carers. Looking at how colleagues overseas were working inside ICUs, funeral homes and care homes, while it was such a battle to get anything in the UK, was deeply frustrating.

Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images. Paramedics of the South Central Ambulance Service attend to a suspected Covid-19 positive patient on the street.

In my personal life, the pressure in the early stages of the pandemic was substantial. As Government warnings told the public to stay indoors and keep away from others, members of the media were doing all they could to get into the hotspots. Looking back now, it’s easy to be dismissive of the threat, but, at this point, knowledge on the dangers, transmission and long-term effects were scarce, so that mixed message put a lot of pressure onto me. Returning home each day, my family would stay in another room while I removed my clothes, showered, cleaned my cameras, phone, keys etc before I was able to speak with them. After months of this, it was hard to remain buoyant at times.

We source and manage local experts in photography, video, digital and written content from around the world to help you tell stories that make a difference, working with you in the office or the field.

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Arete’s Stories: Working in hostile environments with photographer Karel Prinsloo & hostile…

Arete’s Stories: Working in hostile environments with photographer Karel Prinsloo & hostile environments trainer Lizzy Stileman MBE

Anything can be news but not everything is newsworthy. Journalism is a process in which a reporter uses verification and storytelling to make a subject newsworthy.

Creating a good story means finding and verifying important or interesting information and then presenting it in a way that engages the audience. Good stories are part of what makes journalism unique. For a journalist to truly achieve this, they need to be on the ground, ‘in the thick of it’, capturing the story first-hand.

The stories that too often go untold are taking place in dangerous and challenging environments, warzones, pandemics, dictatorships. It takes brave and trained individuals to capture these stories safely and transparently.

In the latest edition of Arete’s Stories, we talk to Arete photojournalist Karel Prinsloo about his personal experiences of working in dangerous environments and Lizzy Stileman, MBE ,about the role of hostile environment awareness training.

Karel Prinsloo

Karel Prinsloo is an award-winning photographer. He has covered conflicts and humanitarian crises in Africa and the Middle East and has been based in Nairobi for nearly a decade as the Associated Press’ Chief photographer for East Africa.

He also worked at the Associated Press’ base in London as a picture editor for Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Currently, he is a freelance photographer working for humanitarian organisations like UNICEF, WFP, GAVI, IFAW as well as for major international news media.

Karel has won numerous awards, including the South African Photographer Of The Year, second prize in the World Press Photo Awards in 2000 for his coverage of the devastating Mozambique floods and runner up in the CNN African Journalist of the year.

Karel has been published in all the world’s major publications, including the New York Times, Time Magazine, Newsweek and Paris Match.

Your reputation precedes you, Karel! Thanks for talking with me today. Can you start by telling us a little about some of the challenging environments you have worked in over the years?

“Sure, so I started when I was young, with my first experience of working in a hostile or challenging environment coming in South Africa just after the end of apartheid. I was doing a lot of work in the townships, and there was a lot of unrest and lawlessness out there during the transition of power in the country in 1994.

Since then, I have covered two wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo, been embedded with the US Military in Iraq and Afghanistan, captured the ongoing conflict in Israel, Gaza, and Palestine, violent unrest in Uganda, the farm invasions in Zimbabwe, and unrest in Somalia where, tragically, one of my colleagues from the BBC died.

From the Middle East to Europe, to Africa, you could say I have covered a fair amount of dangerous and hostile situations over the years; thankfully though, I work in relatively safer climates now….”

I can only imagine some of what you see and experience when working in these places. Is there any way to prepare yourself for this?

“Well, when working with any news agency, they will send you on hostile environment awareness training (HEAT) — I’ve been on a few.

Generally, you get training in first aid, a bit of situational awareness, how to recognise danger, how to read a crowd, that sort of thing. For me personally, I had been working in the field a long-time before these training courses became mandatory, so a lot of it was common-sense to me — but I can see how it can be helpful for somebody who has never been in this situation.

The biggest takeaway for me was the first aid training — and, unfortunately, I have had to use these skills since.

During the Kenyan presidential elections, we stumbled across a lot of people who had been quite seriously hurt. I believe the reason we are taught these skills is to help people, so regardless of whether it was my team or me, or a complete stranger, I will help.

There are those who might say to preserve journalistic integrity, you shouldn’t interfere, but I don’t believe in this observer ideology. I believe if you are in a situation to help someone, then you should, so long as it doesn’t endanger your life or that of your team. And that is what we did. We tried to help as many people as we could”.

Can you give us an insight into how you feel when working in these places?

“I started out as a photojournalist to show injustice in my own country, Namibia and my aim is always to try and shine a light on the injustices of the world, and I‘ve been doing that with my camera now for well over 30 years.

When I initially started out working in potentially hostile places, I was young, and I wasn’t particularly phased by much of what I saw. However, I find as you get older, you get more sensitive to working in these environments.

I have a family now, and when you see the atrocities that are being committed against, particularly, women and children. You can’t help but think, what if that was my wife or my daughter. This is hard to carry when it is so important to stay focused and aware of your surroundings.

As a result, in recent years, I have pivoted to work in the humanitarian sector rather than for the media. I am still required to work in ‘hostile environments, but the stories’ subject is very different.

I feel whether you are seeking to unearth and capture injustice or documenting the amazing work many of these NGOs are doing, you have to believe in it. This is key. I still believe in this work, and I wouldn’t do it otherwise. I genuinely believe we make a difference, and to make a difference in one person’s life is amazing, but to make a difference in many people’s lives is incredible; this feeling is something special”.

Have there ever been moments where you have feared for your life while capturing these stories?

“Yeah many times. I can vividly remember the time when I was in Goma in the DRC. The rebels were advancing into Goma. I was standing with my colleagues, a photographer and a videographer, in front of the UN building on the road. All of a sudden a number of armed Congolese Government soldiers abducted us to flee from the advancing rebels, forcing us into our own vehicle.

We tried to reason with them, but the more we spoke, the angrier they got. They were speaking Swahili, which one of my colleagues understood. I remember looking over at him, and he was as white as a ghost.

All of a sudden, they came around a corner, stopped the car, got out, and ran.

It turns out they ran as there was a rebel checkpoint ahead. After speaking with my colleague, I found out that they were talking about how they intended to rape our female colleague and then kill us all. We got very lucky this day.

Unbelievably, this wasn’t the worst experience of my career. I was in the DRC again in 2001, this time for the funeral of the assassinated President, Laurent-Desire Kabila. I was amongst many people, and I could sense the mood was changing.

I was struck with a rock, and it was at this moment I realised that the sentiment of anger and outrage of this large group of people was being directed at me. There was a belief that foreigners had killed their President, and I became a target. Rocks started flying in my direction.

Nothing scares me more in this world than an angry mob. I’ve seen what a mob can do; I’ve been on the receiving end.

This happened to me prior to any of these training courses that are commonplace nowadays, and it was the only education on reading a crowd that I ever needed. Since then, I have been far more trusting of my gut instinct.

You don’t know how you will react when someone shoots at you until someone shoots at you! You can either continue working or not, and you won’t know this as a photojournalist until you have worked in a hostile environment and experienced it”.

It seems these experiences happened relatively early in your career, and it is remarkable that you could carry on after this. How were you able to continue? What makes all this worth it?

“For me, it is knowing that my work actually helps people. It is seeing it help. When I worked for the media, sometimes your work can lead to immediate and life-changing responses for people. After all, you are capturing first-hand accounts from places, particularly back then, that nobody else would be documenting.

One story that sticks in my mind was from 2003 when we were cut off from civilisation in a town called Bunia in the DRC. Atrocities were happening all around us, we were able to get some of these stories out to the media, and two weeks later, the French military landed, and it stopped overnight. There is huge satisfaction in knowing you made a difference by getting these stories out.

Today, I get to better peoples lives with my work in the NGO sector and my photography with Arete — we have helped raise millions of dollars for various organisations that have been used to make a better life for so many. That is the satisfaction I get now”.

Lizzy Stileman MBE

Lizzy is the Director of EJS Disaster Management and veteran of the British Army, serving for 20 years. Since then, Lizzy has gone on to complete a Masters in Disaster Management, volunteers for British NGO RE:ACT, where she has completed eight international deployments and remains an active member of the British Army Reservists.

Lizzy, can you tell us a little about the role of HEAT in preparing for work in hostile environments?

“The purpose of HEAT or hostile environment awareness training is two-fold really. The first aspect is security, and the second is remote first aid. As facilitators, it is our job to give people the best opportunity to not get in a position where they are under threat. The course is there as a thought-provoking tool.

We aim to prepare people of all walks of life, providing them with a toolkit that enables them to handle both the mental and physical stress of hostile environments. It is understanding how to read a situation and, if necessary, how to get away with your team safely.

Many of the scenarios explored in HEAT are things the vast majority of us would likely never encounter, such as kidnappings, carjacking, being caught up in a riot, illegal checkpoints or an active shooter.

It is more than just a set of instructions on what to do if that were to happen. It is about self-care, interpersonal skills, how to negotiate and help your team members if they are struggling. Your mind is your most powerful tool in a hostile environment, and it is essential that it is working efficiently.

The first aid aspect is focussed on what we call remote first aid, how to help someone when you are in the middle of nowhere, with very limited supplies. How to apply a tourniquet, how to do CPR, how to treat a gunshot wound. With no communications, how do you create a temporary stretcher, and how do you stay safe while doing it? In these scenarios, there is no 999, no ambulances.

Visiting hostile environments, even for a short period of time, is a dangerous but essential aspect for many sectors, such as those that work with NGOs and the Press; and HEAT has become a key element of preparing for this travel”.

We source and manage local experts in photography, video, digital and written content from around the world to help you tell stories that make a difference, working with you in the office or the field.

Contact us to find out how we can help you make an impact through exceptional storytelling and targeted communications strategies


Arete’s Stories: Working in hostile environments with photographer Karel Prinsloo & hostile… was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Arete’s Stories: Refugees add far more to society than is often reported, by Jonathan Clayton

Photo: Karel Prinsloo/Unicef Somalia/ Arete. Refugee Ideeja at a support group held by UNICEF near her home in an IDP camp on the beach in Puntland, Somalia. ideeja traveled to Marere to be smuggled out by boat to Yemen. On her first night before departure at the port a woman was raped in their boat by a drunk smuggler. She got scared and left and walked all the way back to Bossaso. As the bitter conflict in Yemen grinds on and the humanitarian situation there continues to deteriorate, conditions facing the almost 280,000 refugees in-country are worsening and their needs and vulnerabilities are growing by the day.

Every 60 seconds, 20 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror. Whether refugees or asylum seekers, each and every one of these brave people are simply seeking safety and security.

The narrative often delivered by the mainstream media around refugees, strips them of their previous successes and their ambitions for the future. Portraying them as helpless; whilst, conversely, depicting the country that offers them a home as a charitable saviour.

In this short blog, Arete journalist and celebrated correspondent Jonathan Clayton shares a selection of his experiences gained from documenting refugee stories for over 30 years. Stories of the amazing people he has met and how, contrary to popular depiction, refugees very often enrich and add value to the countries and cultures they become a part of.

Jonathan Clayton is the former East Africa Bureau Chief of Reuters news agency and from 2002–14 was The Times Africa correspondent. He also covered the first-ever refugee Olympic team at the 2016 Rio games for the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

“I first met *Halima in the early 1990s in the Juba Valley, Somalia — one of the many casualties of the brutal inter-clan warfare which was then tearing the country apart.

A few years later, I met her again in a refugee camp in Kenya. She was still not 30, but in her short life had suffered more pain and hardship than most people can ever possibly imagine.

Dreadful things had happened to her. However, she never lost hope. She was always cheerful and bubbling with energy.

Photo: Kate Holt/ Arete. A mother walks with her children through a dust storm to their newly erected tent in the new arrivals area of Dagehaley camp, one of three camps that make up the Dadaab refugee camp in Dadaab, northeastern Kenya.

Over a sweet tea, we quickly caught up. Again she surprised me. She excitedly told me she was off to Dallas, Texas, in a few months along with her four children. She had never slept on a bed, never used a flush toilet, nor a fridge, nor a washing machine. Pointing at the sky, she told me her greatest fear was flying. Instead, it turned out to be the airport elevator.

A year later, we met in Dallas — a surreal experience. She was working full-time as a cleaner at Wallmart and living in a very decent, if small, apartment — two bedrooms shared by the kids, her and her husband on a pull-out sofa bed. Juggling mobile phone calls from family and friends, she was the very image of a busy suburban American Mom.

The kids loved school. Her boys had excelled at basketball. Her daughter devoured her studies. All spoke near-perfect English already. Halima worked hard as ever. Life was not easy, but people were friendly — most of the time. But she was happy.

Crucially, she told me that for the first time in her life she felt SAFE. She had also discovered “law” and was becoming a powerful advocate of women’s rights. “You know here, you cannot hit a woman!”, she told me. “NO, NO, NO.” It was an amazing transformation from the terrified, beaten and battered, young woman I had first met in the badlands of the lower Shebelle river.

Halima’s embrace of her new life — so wildly different to anything she could have ever dreamed about — challenged my own view of refugees. Like many others, until then, I thought they needed near-constant help and support. In fact, the vast majority only need, and want, an opportunity free from persecution, violence and conflict.

Photo: Karel Prinsloo/ WFP/ Arete. Somali refugees returning from Dadaab in Kenya, at a transit camp. The WFP is providing provision of unconditional food assistance to help those suffering from severe drought.

In more than 30 years of reporting for Reuters and The Times, much of it in Africa and the Balkans, I went on to meet and befriend many other refugees. Most shared one characteristic — determination. If ever they would be given a second chance, they would grasp it and make the most of it.

One of the greatest misconceptions of refugees is that they are a burden on society. The reality is mostly the complete opposite. Overwhelmingly, they enrich and better the societies which adopt them. Be it Albert Einstein or Steve Job’s father, a migrant from Syria, the roll call of history is undeniable. Can anyone imagine today without Apple, let alone the theory of relativity?

Photo: Kate Holt/ Opportunity International UK/ Arete. Kakule, a refugee from Beni in the DR Congo, accepts payment from a customer in his small shop which is next to his garden, where he grows food for his family in Nakivale Refugee Camp, Uganda. Nakivale is home to over 120,000 refugees from Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo Burundi and Somalia.

More recently, I think of Yazidi women now running Middle East food deliveries in Antwerp, a tailor from Damascus stitching sails for wealthy yacht owners in Kiel, Germany, a Syrian architect now running a fashion business in Milan. Then there is Nakout, a Ugandan abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army. She escaped after 14 years as a slave. She now lives in Finland, where she teaches English to other African refugees.

These are the faces behind the statistics. Their stories are powerful, their contributions to society immense. Unfortunately, the true picture is often obscured by right-wing and xenophobic narratives rooted in unfounded fear and propagated by fake news.

ARETE’s reporting of these issues offers a chance to redress that balance. Today, when figures show global displacement increasing for the 9th year in a row, this is more necessary than ever before.”

*Name changed for protection purposes

We source and manage local experts in photography, video, digital and written content from around the world to help you tell stories that make a difference, working with you in the office or the field.

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Preventing Famine is a Choice

Photo: Saiyna Bashir/ WFP/ Arete

Famine and the risk of famine are increasing across the world. Climate change, conflict and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic have all worsened hunger and food insecurity for some of the most vulnerable communities across the globe.

Thirty-four million people around the world are currently experiencing extreme levels of hunger and malnutrition. Without immediate help, the slightest disruption to their food chain could mean the onset of famine.

At the G7 Summit this June, world leaders will focus on this humanitarian crisis with a Famine Prevention panel. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is calling on the global community to help raise awareness and encourage support for life-saving action in the lead up to this event.

Recently awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, WFP has received universal recognition for its efforts to combat hunger and for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in areas affected by war.

Arete have been working with the World Food Programme for over twelve years in countries all over the world. Our photographers and writers have seen first-hand how their programmes save lives, and in our latest blog, we are drawing attention, through photography, to WFP’s #FightFamine initiative, which aims to encourage support for life-saving interventions.

Over a million of the world’s hungriest and most vulnerable people live in just nine countries — the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, South Sudan, and Afghanistan — as well as, Sudan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, Haiti, and Nigeria. Without urgent action, famine could soon become a reality for at least two of these countries that are also dealing with internal conflicts: Yemen and South Sudan.

Here we showcase some of the World Food Programme’s extraordinary work:

Fight Hunger — Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Photographer: Fredrik Lerneryd
World Food Programme/ Arete

Despite being one of the largest countries in Africa and abundant with natural resources such as diamonds, gold, copper and cobalt, DRC remains one of the least developed countries in the African continent, ranking 175th of 189 countries on the 2020 Human Development Index.

DRC now has the largest hunger crisis in the world. Hunger and conflict fuel one another here, with armed groups and widespread civilian displacement prevailing in parts of the country for the past 25 years, all of which compound the deeply entrenched humanitarian challenges.

Arete photographer, Fredrik Lerneryd, visited a town on Lake Tanganyika to document the vital work WFP is doing to support those suffering from moderate acute malnutrition.

Evariste, who is suffering from malnutrition has his arm measured while sitting on the lap of his mother Furaha at a clinic in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Furaha lives in the province of Tanganyika with her four children and husband.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school Furaha worked for stopped paying her, and at the same time food prices went up. With only her husband’s salary, the family had to reduce the amount of food they ate. This caused Evariste to become malnourished, but he is receiving ready-to-use supplementary food for the treatment of malnutrition from a local clinic supported by WFP and is on the way to recovery.

WFP’s response in the Democratic Republic of Congo includes in-kind food and cash distributions for the most vulnerable, the treatment and prevention of malnutrition among children and women, and hot meals for school children.

Faida who can be seen sorting beans in Kasheke is a member of the COOPANG cooperative formed by 28 Farmers Organisations and supported by WFP.

A farmer in South Kivu, Furaha also benefited from a joint WFP-FAO resilience initiative in DRC and can be seen here arranging produce in her shop. After attending a literacy training programme supported by WFP, Furaha became the president of her local savings and loans association and has grown her shop into a successful business.

WFP Sudan

Photographer: Ed Ram
World Food Programme/ Arete

Across Sudan, 9.6 million people required humanitarian support in 2020. Of those, 6.2 million are food insecure, according to the Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan. High inflation has made matters worse, with people unable to afford basic food items. An average local food basket takes up at least 75 percent of monthly household income.

Sudan also faces persistently high levels of acute malnutrition, along with wasting, a low weight for a child’s height, and stunting, a low height for a child’s weight, all of which constitute a significant public health problem About 2.7 million children in Sudan suffer from wasting annually, with approximately 522,000 suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

Arete photographer, Ed Ram, was in Sudan to document the influx of thousands of refugees from the Tigray region of Ethiopia who are struggling to survive on what limited resources there are.

Ram documented the support given by WFP to tens of thousands of Ethiopian refugees in the Um Rakuba settlement.

World Food Programme (WFP) distributes food to refugees coming from the Tigray region in Um Rakuba refugee camp in eastern Sudan.

WFP continues to support around 57,000 refugees in the four refugee camps, settlements, or reception centres in Sudan, who have fled violent conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia — by offering monthly food rations, providing food for hot meals for new arrivals, nutrition support, and logistical support to the humanitarian community. The United Nations refugee agency says about 63,000 people have fled Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region into neighbouring Sudan since November 2020.

Three children sit eating rice on the floor of a temporary shelter in Um Rakuba refugee camp in eastern Sudan.

WFP Nigeria

Photographer: Damilola Onafuwa
World Food Programme/ Arete

With over 182 million people, Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa and the seventh-largest in the world. The annual growth rate of the population is approximately 2.7 per cent, and more than half the population are under 30 years of age.

Nigeria is the 10th largest producer of crude oil in the world and achieved lower-middle-income status in 2014. However, conflict in the northeast has displaced 1.7 million people and left another 8.7 million in need of humanitarian assistance in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states. Over three million of them are in Borno State, the epicentre of the insurgency.

Damilola Onafuwa visited Yobe State on assignment for WFP and met many families fleeing from armed insurgents.

Sadiya and her 10-month-old daughter, Ruqayyah sit in front of their home in Yobe State, Nigeria. WFP Nigeria continues their famine prevention work by offering child malnutrition programmes that focus on children who suffer from moderate acute malnutrition (MAM).

The mother of 15 children, Amina, receives a food parcel at a Food Distribution Point in Yobe State Nigeria. “I lost everything and spent three days on the road while fleeing,” she says.

Photographer: Siegfried Madola
World Food Programme/ Arete

At the height of the annual hunger season from June to August, some 6.8 million people in northern Nigeria will not know where their next meal will come from.

According to a new assessment, conflict is spreading from the northeast to the northwest — engulfing the entire north of Nigeria.

Camps have been set up, such as this one in Zamfara State, northwestern Nigeria, to shelter internally displaced people.

In this photo taken by Siegfried Madola, a woman holds up her prepaid card from WFP, which will enable her to buy food and vital supplies.

WFP Somalia

Photographer: Ismail Taxta
World Food Programme/ Arete

Somalia was gripped by famine in 2011. Since then, a combination of improved early warning measures, donor mobilization and a sustained, large-scale humanitarian response from both government and partners have resulted in gradual improvements to the food security situation.

Now, however, the combined impacts of COVID-19 and desert locust infestations, coupled with insecurity, political tension and recurrent climatic shocks such as flooding and drought, threaten to undo this recovery. Nearly half the population, some 5.6 million people, are currently unable to access adequate nutritious food. Of those, 2.7 million people are expected to face ‘crisis’ level food insecurity or worse by June 2021.

Climate shocks pose continual risks to crop production and to livestock, which increases unemployment and drives up prices — compounding a high reliance on food imports and threatening access to food for low-income families.

Arete photographer Ismail Taxta documented how WFP Somalia is supporting the provision of school meals across Mogadishu — part of a broader WFP response to meet urgent food and nutrition needs, while also supporting Somalia in building longer-term resilience and food security. Hundreds of thousands of children receive two nutritious meals every day, which means they can concentrate on their studies and not feel hungry. These meals also provide a safety net for poor families, which might otherwise struggle to feed their children; and are entirely sourced from local producers and retailers, strengthening local economies and helping communities to resist shocks.

A child holds up her lunch at a school in Mogadishu, Somalia. WFP Somalia continues to support the provision of school meals and quality kitchen facilities in schools across Somalia.

Students eat lunch at a school in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Saabirin says,”I love eating meals at school. Today my classmates and I are talking about hot meals because the change to hot meals this week has made us very happy, I’d like to study at this school until I grow up. In the future, I would like to be a doctor.”

WFP needs to raise $5B US Dollars in 2021 to avert famine and meet the urgent food and nutritional requirements of those most at risk.

Donate and learn more here: https://cdn.wfp.org/2021/preventing-famine/


Why clear communication is vital to the success of immunisation campaigns

Photo: Kate Holt/ GAVI/ Arete. A health worker prepares to vaccinate a baby with a routine vaccination at a health clinic in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

As the world starts to vaccinate against COVID-19, social, economic, and geographic issues are magnified. These include access to the vaccines for vulnerable communities, misinformation, and gender inequality.

Without clear communication strategies and organised implementation, immunisation campaigns can become ineffective, allowing the opportunity for misinformation and dishonest narratives to enter the discourse and alter the outcome.

There have been recent examples of this with Polio vaccinations in Afghanistan, where religious hard-liners spread rumours of children falling sick from the vaccine, with devastating consequences for three local vaccinators. In Malawi, ‘Vaccine hesitancy’ is contributing to a reduced uptake in the Covid-19 vaccine due to ‘a lack of understanding’.

And in parts of Serbia, where despite the government having stock of five different Covid-19 vaccines, suspicion around the vaccine’s side effects led to more than 92 in 100 people refusing to be immunised.

Ultimately, vaccines don’t save people; it’s the vaccinations that do, so how do our communication efforts contribute to encouraging positive human behaviour?

Successful immunisation campaigns depend on clear communication

Underpinning any immunisation campaign must be a comprehensive narrative and visual communications strategy targeting all sections of society, which uses local context and social norms to motivate people to vaccinate; delivered in multiple languages, or with content that can be interpreted universally despite individual levels of literacy, such as animation.

7.7 million unimmunized children live in fragile or humanitarian settings, global vaccination coverage is at 85% but better immunization could prevent an additional 1.5 million deaths.


To successfully communicate the benefits of vaccination, it is essential to ‘speak the language’ of every community both literally and figuratively, using terms that are readily understood and demonstrating an appreciation for local social problems and respect for local customs and culture.

Some key considerations of a communications strategy might include the primary message you want to communicate, what media will be the most suitable for disseminating information, and what resources will be required to deliver this strategy effectively.

Communication tools should focus on a human-centred design and, where possible, can be innovative in their approach, for example, an immunisation board game for families.

Communications to encourage a positive change in human behaviour

For many, firmly held views do not change fast; it can take time for people to change their attitudes. The main goal of any immunisation campaign is to increase vaccine coverage. Therefore the aim of communications must be to bring about a positive behavioural change in those who oppose vaccination or don’t know differently.

Some parents don’t recognise the threat of diseases they don’t see or understand, in Colombia for example more than 48% of caregivers were unaware that their child was under-vaccinated (the Quechuan language (spoken in Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Argentina) alone has 9 dialects making generic vaccination messages almost impossible).

Educational content alone won’t lead to this change; an immunisation comms strategy must be multi-faceted. Target audiences must be identified, and communication tactics and content designed in partnership with local communities and delivered accordingly.

Through working directly with affected or beneficiary communities to hear their problems, struggles and opinions we can assess what strategy will work best.

Photo: Kate Holt/ GAVI/ Arete. A group of women with their children learn about routine vaccinations at a health clinic in Moyamba, Sierra Leone.

Engage with different communities

Mobilising the community is essential to the success of any immunisation programme. In order to mobilise the community, it is important to interact with the various target audiences in person and, in partnership with local communities, prepare content, such as posters and videos, that can be easily disseminated to follow up and reinforce the message.

What are the different sectors of communities? Why do you need to define comms differently to each different section of society?

Most communities in the world will contain a number of different sectors, as an example. these may include religious and community leaders, teachers, health workers, parents, and children. A communications strategy should identify each of these sectors, and outline a plan on how to interact.

This interaction could take place in community meetings, religious places, shops and marketplaces. But also indirectly via local theatre, radio and television. The aim of the message will remain the same, but the delivery should vary depending on your audience. If using illustrative flashcards in a mosque, for example, the people in the depictions should be dressed appropriately.

Community mobilisation is an important step for promoting the long-term commitment to sustained behaviour change and leading to a feeling of local ownership of the immunisation campaign — ensuring higher participation and involvement of everyone in a shared goal.

Photo: Brian Ongoro/ UNICEF/ Arete — Villagers in South Sudan learn about the dangers of coronavirus from a UNICEF partner organisation.

Community conversation

Community meetings

A collective community discussion of a particular issue within the immunisation campaign, such as a poor turnout, can be a great and inclusive way to problem solve.

Community meetings can prove to be a suitable and effective platform for discussion, ensuring that everyone is given the opportunity to be heard. It is important that people feel at ease enough to share their opinions for a productive community conversation.

This can be achieved by clearly communicating the purpose of the conversation, organising a meeting place where there will be little interference, and chairing the meeting to facilitate a fair, open, and non-judgmental conversation.

In addition to general community meetings, organising meetings and creating content that is targeted at specific interest groups is also useful — this could be with community leaders, parents, other NGOs and partners, or special groups such as ethnic, minority, and religious groups.

Photo: Kate Holt/ UNICEF/ Arete. A local family talk about the polio vaccination with a World Health Organisation representative.

Personal conversations

Immunisation advocates can be effective at encouraging a change in behaviour with certain community members through interpersonal communication.

One-on-one conversations and conversation with small groups can be a great way to persuade individuals about the value of a proposed behaviour change by explaining and responding to questions about the vaccination programme and providing practical information regarding how and when to vaccinate. This can also be an effective way to challenge and quash misinformation and rumour.

Advocacy

Advocacy activities at a stakeholder and organisational level are also key to garnering support for an immunisation programme. Lobbying, negotiations, meetings, and the sharing of educational content such as PDF presentations and videos of first-hand beneficiary storytelling, can be effective tools for influencing opinion leaders, policymakers, and politicians — ensuring support for the national deployment of a campaign.

A slide from a presentation Arete prepared for UNICEF stakeholders to report on a Polio immunisation campaign in Papua New Guinea.

Combatting misinformation and negative rumours

A robust and organised communication campaign with a clear message will be your strongest ally in combating misinformation. Creating content, such as animation and posters, that are universally understood and disseminated en-mass can directly address and dispel negative rumours.

A poster designed by Arete for the UNICEF Polio Global Eradication Initiative.

But the most important aspect of combating misinformation is knowing what is being spread. Understanding what the rumour is, and where the misinformation originated, will be key to dismantling any argument underpinning it effectively.

This understanding should inform the creation of your content, the agenda of community meetings, and the training of volunteers, and staff, to create ongoing communication to combat potentially life-threatening misinformation.

Experience shows that strategic actions need to be based on information that identifies patterns and differences among users, non-users, and inconsistent users of immunisation services.

Clear communication

If all programs in the sector are provided with the necessary resources, assuming they are available, then they will be able to contribute significantly to immunisation by increasing and maintaining demand and advocating for continuous support for vaccine programs among partners and decision-makers.

Although not an exhaustive list of activities that can be undertaken. Many of these activities demonstrate why a well-designed and organised communication strategy is a vital component.

We source and manage local experts in photography, video, digital and written content from around the world to help you tell stories that make a difference, working with you in the office or the field.

Contact us to find out how we can help you make an impact through exceptional storytelling and targeted communications strategies


Why clear communication is vital to the success of immunisation campaigns was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


How to use animation to tell difficult stories

As one of the most engaging digital mediums used to tell stories, animations are king of content.

When stories are complex and delicate, the nature of a more traditional, true to life video, can introduce factors that can distract from the story’s core message.

As an example, when a video relies on the performance of actors, it may not effectively communicate the authentic emotions and feelings of the story. Or sometimes, people watching a video may not be able to engage with the characters, which may turn them off listening to the message.

Through using animated characters or symbols to relay a message or story, the storyteller has complete control, and the content can be more easily digested by the viewer, who feels less confronted by the real-life nature of the subject. The finest details of an animated message can also be fine-tuned to ensure the message is clear and carries the point across in the most effective way.

At Arete, we often recommend the use of animated films to our clients who need to tell more complex narratives.

Complete control

Immersive storytelling

Compared to other mediums, animation gives the creator complete control over what is depicted; a skilled animator can hone in on the key aspects of each element of the story, blocking out anything that may be irrelevant or distracting. This allows for a truly immersive experience for the viewer, which in turn means that the key messages are being delivered in the most powerful way.

Communicate emotion effectively

Humans all display emotion in different and nuanced ways; through using animation, one can remove any ambiguity around what the protagonist of the story is feeling. The emotions of animated characters can be carefully controlled and, where necessary, exaggerated, ensuring that the narrative of the story unfurls in a structured and strategic way. This close control over the communication of emotion can be utilised very effectively to engage and influence an audience.

Create a connection

Research has proven that some people also find it easier to relate to, and therefore, empathise with animated characters.

As James Isgrove, Arete’s lead animator, explains, “Animated characters can be made as simplified or complex as you like. In some cases, the simpler they are, the better. This provides the viewer with enough of a blank canvas to project themselves on to the character, and therefore, imagine what the character might be feeling. This can catalyse a deep and meaningful connection with both the character and the story.”

Unbound creativity

Animation is limited only by the extent of creativity; it allows for a story to be told in almost any way. Animation offers greater flexibility to communicate through symbolism, which means complex subjects and delicate stories can be expressed in a more palatable way, creating a more engaging experience.

The most effective storytelling can utilise symbolism to communicate the emotion of the characters on-screen without using any words. UNICEF South Sudan commissioned Arete to create five short animations that would reflect the dreams of child soldiers. In this video, in which the young girl narrates her story, she doesn’t need to say that she felt scared, small, and insignificant.

By shrinking the character representing the girl and making the character that represents the soldier monstrously large, each of these emotions is symbolically communicated effectively and efficiently without need for further explanation.

Approach topics tactfully

The creative use of symbolism can also ensure difficult topics are expressed tactfully but with enough weight to indicate significance. Through the use of abstract visuals, complex and upsetting situations can be simplified so that they are easier for the viewer to watch and interpret.

In another of these videos, a young boy narrates a story that is recurring in his nightmares.

In this story, the young boy depicts how he was forced to watch soldiers slit his father’s throat. It was difficult to work out how best to portray that,” lead animator James Isgrove describes. “With upsetting and delicate scenes, such as this one, sometimes it is better to leave some of the details to the viewer’s imagination. The idea is to lead the story down a path and let the viewer’s mind fill in the blanks”.

Utilising sound

The power of the imagination can also be realised through the use of descriptive sound. One’s imagination is the most compelling storytelling tool, and with the right stimulus, it can be utilised to communicate a story more powerfully than any visual depiction.

For example, in this animation, this ex-child soldier describes how she was beaten with heavy chains. By employing the sound of chains rattling and thumping, we were able to descriptively, yet delicately, depict this horrific chapter in her story without the need to animate a distressing scene.

Educational videos made easy — Aga Khan University — How the news becomes the news

Animation can also be effectively employed to explain complex situations and processes in a simplified and easy-to-understand manner, granting storytellers the ability to create simple on-screen scenarios, which can effectively communicate a process — such as how the news becomes the news.

In this animation, commissioned by the Aga Khan School of Media and Communication in Kenya, the goal was to educate the audience on how a news story’s facts and content are gathered and checked before it is published.

To conclude, animation is a versatile medium that offers comprehensive creative control and the ability to engage with all audiences. When utilised correctly, animations can be used to tell both delicate and informative stories effectively.

Do you have a complex story that could be told using animation? Here is how to reach out to our animation team.

Arete is the expert storytelling and training agency for NGOs, UN bodies and foundations

Our award-winning journalists and content specialists are eager to help you make a difference. Contact us to find out how we can tailor our expertise to meet your needs.


From the photographers: Climate change

Photo: Kate Holt

“Climate Change is a phenomenon that can not be ignored. Raising awareness of the issue, and showing how the effects of a changing climate impact people’s lives, is essential to changing public opinion about the topic and forcing governments to take urgent action to reduce carbon emissions.

A warming planet is currently having a much greater impact in poorer countries, very often those that are not responsible for generating high emissions. As well as the science needed to explain what is happening, photos are essential in shaping opinion and driving change.

I have been working as a photographer for over 20 years in many of the countries most acutely impacted by extreme weather patterns as a result of global warming. Every year, more and more countries are having to deal with these events and the resilience of poorer families decreases annually.

In Somalia, for example, with every year that goes by with no rain, people’s herds of sheep and goats are reduced by adverse weather conditions, until they have nothing left. This forces them into makeshift camps where they become dependent on food aid. In Madagascar, rising sea levels are causing flooding in coastal communities resulting in increasing water-borne diseases because freshwater supplies get contaminated.

People often feel helpless when confronted by such huge issues. It is essential to also tell the positive stories which demonstrate how people are fighting back; and the impact that individual actions can have.

Tree and mangrove nurseries have sprung up in Madagascar and Somalia that allow communities to purchase to replant depleted mangrove swamps and forest, with previously stopped coastal sea levels rising. Mangroves also provide carbon sinks and are havens for a wide variety of different plants and animals. These initiatives prove that when people come together to find a solution, it is possible to reduce the impact of global warming.” — Kate Holt, Director of Arete Stories.

Photo: Kate Holt/ WaterAid UK / Arete. A young boy stands on a bridge in the evening light in the city of Morondavo in Madagascar. Despite being surrounded by water, and regular rainfall, 48 %of the population of Madagascar do not have access to clean water and 88% lack basic sanitation. Extensive flooding occurs annually in Morandavo due to depleted mangrove swamps, but communities are fighting back by replanting.

We asked several of our talented Arete Photographers to share photographs from their countries, highlighting the issues a changing climate is bringing to their communities. Some show the problem, others the solution.

Aaron Palabyab — Philippines

@aaronpalabyab

Aaron is a Philippines based filmmaker and photographer specialising in travel-oriented content and time-lapse photography. He started working with Arete last year.

These photos are from the aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009, which caused never-before-seen flooding and damage in the Philippine capital region of Metro Manila. Several subdivisions were flooded and subsequently buried in mud, causing widespread destruction in the capital. Yet this level of flooding was nearly repeated last year during Typhoon Ulysses (Vamco), showing that the unprecedented is threatening to become the norm due to climate change”.

Gregory Escande — Mozambique

@photo_in_moz

Gregory Escande is a French-language teacher and photographer based in Maputo, Mozambique who has recently completed his first assignment for Arete.

Sometimes, you can see men walking and carrying a lot of 5 litre plastic bottles. They collect these bottles all around the city and neighbourhoods, and they then resell them in bulk to people who reuse them to make cubes of ice. The man in the photo has approximately 70 bottles, and he sells each for 5 meticais ($0.06)”.

In this photo, you can see Amelia, 60 years old, and she supports her entire family (children and grandchildren) by collecting cans or plastic for recycling. On her head, she has approximately $5 worth of recycling that she has collected”.

Massoud Hossaini — Afghanistan

@massoud151

Massoud is a photographer based in Kabul, Afghanistan and 2012 Pulitzer prize winner.

“I was born in the wrong place, Afghanistan; grow up in the wrong place, Iran; living and working in the wrong place, Kabul; let’s see what will happen”.

There are two shots of a window view of Kabul. One in the sunny morning around 11 AM. And the second in the afternoon, about 4 PM, which is when people start to use their coal or wood heaters. These, unfortunately, produce a lot of pollution”.

Kate Holt — USA & UK

@kateholtphoto

Kate is a US-based photographer who has worked extensively across Africa and Asia. Kate is the director of Arete and trustee of RE:ACT disaster response and the Royal Humane Society.

“Mongias ten year old daughter Sandra drinks water from the stream in Bekalalao Village, Madagascar. Mongia says “We collect water from the small lake. It’s not suitable for us but what can we do? We get belly ache a lot, so we have to go to the doctor. But then we come back again and drink the dirty water and the cycle is repeated. But what can we do? We always have belly ache and diarrhoea. We keep getting sick.”

Bekalalo is a very poor community and there is no clean water; the community is forced to collect water for both drinking and washing from stagnant ponds in the community where livestock also drink from”.

Karel Pinsloo — Kenya

@karelprinsloo

Karel Prinsloo is an award-winning African photographer. He works for many NGO’s and news organisations throughout Africa and is one of Arete’s main photographers.

I recently visited Turkana, Kenya, where UNICEF is providing safe water and energy through the construction of boreholes and solar panels. This provides much-needed water and renewable energy to a community where water has become increasingly scarce”.

Saiyna Bashir — Pakistan

@saiynabashirphoto

Saiyna is a photojournalist based in Pakistan, and a frequent contributor to the NY Times, Reuters, the Telegraph and others.

Forester, Adalat, holds a tree sapling in the field where out-of-work labourers due to the pandemic have now been hired by the government as ‘jungle workers’ in a reforestation initiative to plant 10-billion trees to deal with climate change threats on the outskirts of Peshawar”.

Below, Abu, who is out of school due to the pandemic, also works as a ‘jungle worker’ in the new tree planting initiative”.

Oluwaseun Oluwamuyiwa — Nigeria

@jomiphotography

Oluwaseun is a Nigerian born photojournalist and has been working with Arete for two years, with NGOs such as the World Food Programme.

“Climate change is staring us right in the face. With the consistent rise of human activities such as burning fossil fuels and wastes, we will need to do a better job in educating people about the hazard caused to the environment by engaging in such activities, especially in rural communities. This is a site in Adamawa State where waste is burned daily”.

Angelo Mendoza — Phillipines

@angelomendo

Angelo is a professional photographer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. His work mainly revolves around travel, lifestyle, and adventure but also extends to documentary filmmaking and time-lapse photography.

I took this image last February, 2020, in Mangatarem, Pangasinan where I witnessed fire spreading across the mountain range. I’m uncertain how it started, but due to the heat and lack of trees, the dry grasslands allowed the fire to spread at an alarming rate. In the centre of the photograph, a tiny silhouette of an eagle can be seen flying over the burning land. In the Phillipines, as the severity of climate change increases caused by deforestation and other environmental problems, more and more animals lose their homes and struggle to thrive in the wild”.

Isak Amin — Somalia

@isak_amin

Isak is a Somali photographer who specialises in landscapes, nature, and travel photography. Isak has been working with Arete for many years for a range of UN agencies across East Africa.

I took this photo in 2016 during a severe drought which affected all areas of Somaliland, forcing rural dwellers to flee their homes on-mass and seek assistance in the cities; they had nothing to eat and no water, their livestock had gone”.

How great content and stories can help raise awareness about the effects of climate change and help people make informed decisions.

Photo: Saiyna Bashir/ World Food Programme / Arete

Natural disasters are an increasing result of climate change, and the nature of our work means we often document the important work NGOs do to help those adversely affected. A recent example is a project we undertook for the World Food Programme in Pakistan with photographer Saiyna Bashir.

The Sindh Government announced a state of emergency on 25th of August, 2020, with 20 districts declared calamity-affected by an epidemic of flooding and landslides. The number of people impacted was estimated to be over 1 million, with 300,000 people in need of food assistance.

Photo: Saiyna Bashir/ WFP/ Arete

In an attempt to raise awareness of the issue and the need for local and international support, we were tasked with documenting how the WFP is supporting people in rural Sindh with life-saving supplies

Photo: Saiyna Bashir/ WFP/ Arete

The result was broad coverage in the local and international press, including The Telegraph, Dawn, the Independent, and Next Blue; this led to many people donating money to support those they had read about and seen in the photos.

To talk to us about telling your climate change stories and how best to disseminate them to your digital audience, you can contact us here.

We source and manage local experts in photography, video, digital and written content from around the world to help you tell stories that make a difference. We can work with you in your office or in the field.


From the photographers: Climate change was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.