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UNICEF Photo of the Year 2010 Winners Announced

Each year, UNICEF Germany grants the “UNICEF Photo of the Year Award” to photos and photo series that best depict the personality and living conditions of children all around the world in an outstanding manner.
“High-quality photography shows both, beauty and the things that really matter. The aim of this award is to help us increase the awareness of children’s suffering and also of their hopes and dreams“, says Dr. Jürgen Heraeus, Chairman of UNICEF Germany. “Images can tell us much better than words where children suffer and where they are neglected or exploited. They show the unique way how children experience the world, they show their tears, joys and challenges. Without much ado, they let us know why we must think of these children and how we can.”
Renowned photographers from all over the world take part in the contest. They document the living conditions of children who are in difficult circumstances such as war, material and emotional distress after natural disasters but also moments of happiness and joy of living.
Young photo journalists, above all, are being addressed with the contest. A recommendation from a renowned photography expert is a prerequisite for taking part in the competition. The award is granted annually on an international basis. A participation in the contest is not possible without a nomination. The winner receives a commission for a photo-reportage in GEO as recognition. The award is being presented in Berlin at the end of December.

First Prize - Vietnam: The legacy of war

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Photograph: Ed Kashi/Agency VII/UNICEF Photo of the Year 2010
First prize: Ed Kashi, Agency VII, US
The Vietnam war ended in 1975. The US withdrew their troops and north and south Vietnam were reunited. But for the Vietnamese people the legacy of American warfare continues. US forces used the herbicide Agent Orange to destroy foliage that the north Vietnamese were using as cover. Agent Orange contains dioxins that are known to cause cancer and damage genes. The effects of the toxic substance can be seen among Vietnamese people to this day, such as cancer, immune disorders and severe deformities. According to official estimates, 1.2 million children, including nine-year-old Nguyen Thi Ly, are disabled. In rural areas, the percentage of disabled children is significantly higher than in urban areas.


2nd Prize 2010 Majid Saeedi | Getty Images

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Afghanistan’s past: Soviet invasion in 1978, outbreak of the civil war. Consequence: refugees. Withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, mujahideen take Kabul. Outbreak of yet another civil war. Consequence: refugees. Overthrow of the Taliban regime after 9/11 by an alliance lead by the US. Bloody internal struggles. Consequence: refugees. Afghanistan’s future: despite uncertain circumstances, approx. 4 million refugees have returned from Pakistan and Iran and now are trying to settle down again in their home country.
Among these refugees was the family of 8-year-old Akram. They looked for shelter in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. Even as a small boy, Akram tried to make some money by collecting scrap on a garbage dump in Peshawar. While rummaging through the garbage, he once accidentally touched a non-insulated cable. Both his hands and arms had to be amputated because of severe burns. In the meantime, Akram’s family has returned to Kabul where he received arm prostheses thanks to the help of the International Red Cross. Looking at the pictures taken by Iranian photographer Majid Saeedi, we are astonished by the natural way the children treat each other and their compassion for each other. Majid Saeedi has also captured the playful ease shown by healthy children when handling these ‘spare body parts’. The horrible realization of being severely disabled for one’s whole life, however, only sets in when people get older. And this realization is cruel because it’s final.

3rd Prize 2010 GMB Akash | Panos Pictures

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Bangladesh: The oldest profession in the world destroys the lives of young girls
There is no exact data on the number of child prostitutes worldwide. According to cautious estimates by UNICEF, approx. 1.8 million children and adolescents worldwide are abused through prostitution.
Bangladesh-based photographer, G.M.B. Akash, shows the plight of these child prostitutes, some of whom are extremely young. He grew ever more horrified at the hopeless situation of these young girls in the brothels of the Faridpur region when he heard what they had to do to their bodies to appear older and more attractive. Every day over many years they take a steroid to ‘plump up’. It is the same drug that is also used in countries like Bangladesh to fatten cattle. It was originally intended for use by seriously ill patients suffering from arthritis, asthma or allergies.
20-year-old Yasmin also has a puffy face because of the steroid. She has lived in this brothel since she was a child – just like her mother, who worked here as a prostitute for 30 years.

Honorable Mentions

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Honorable Mention Leslie Alsheimer | USA, Freelance Photographer
Uganda: Lust for life
Is the whole world a vale of tears? Particularly on the black continent? Is this not a place where sad allegories of murder, disease and refugees dominate our perception?
American photographer Leslie Alsheimer wants to provide us with a different view. Her strength lies in seeing and understanding things. Her work is poetic and without pathos – it captures people’s grace even under harsh circumstances, their hope, their joy and the significant shades of grey between life and mere survival. Leslie Alsheimer doesn’t deny the tremendous suffering Africa frequently endures. She wants to draw our attention, however, to the incredible lust for life of African children, their lack of prejudice and their loving care for each other.

Honorable Mention

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Honorable Mention Javier Arcenillas | Spain / Freelance Photographer
Bangladesh: Refugees from Myanmar
More important than just hard facts and circumstances are the traces of emotion in his photos for Spanish photographer Javier Arcenillas. These he captures in simple aesthetic outlines, limited to a few points of interest. Disembodied shadows of hands against the sides of a tent; calligraphic patterns in the sand; wide open eyes – again and again – in painted faces; in mirrors; illuminated by the flame of an oil lamp. And like a metaphor for an epic tale of woes, two children lie under a glowing cross.
They belong to the Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim group fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh due to persecution and oppression by Myanmar’s military junta. The regime does not regard them as citizens. Their fate is mostly unknown. And their future is uncertain.

Honorable Mention

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Honorable Mention Christoph Gödan | BRD / Agentur Laif
Tanzania: Brave water carriers
Water, for us a matter of course – available anytime. We drink it and use it for cooking and washing. Rarely do we feel grateful for this everyday luxury. But in places where clean water does not simply run from the tap, the value of this elixir of life increases dramatically.
That is exactly what German photographer Christoph Gödan has witnessed in Tansania. When he saw Elenius, Athanael, Dezdel, Jasintha, Anicias, Kelvin and many other children carrying their empty water containers to the Kagera River in the early morning, they appeared quite carefree. After filling their containers, however, their heavy but valuable load took its toll on them. Gödan’s impressive portraits show the children’s fatigue. Seeing them carry water every day without complaining not only raised the photographer’s respect for them but also made him admire the children’s way of coping with this daily strain.
According to UNICEF, millions of girls and boys share the fate of children like Elenius or Jasintha. About 884 million people worldwide have no access to clean drinking water. 125 million of them are children under five years of age.

Honorable Mention

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Honorable Mention Rania Matar | Lebanon/USA, Freelance Photographer
Puberty: The search for a new self
Insecurity, confidence, doubt and searching. Even though they would prefer to hide it all: their faces, their make-up and the decoration of their rooms reveal a lot about these young girls’ inner state. They provided photographer Rania Matar with an insight into their very personal retreats. Rania Matar, born and raised in Lebanon, today lives with her teenage daughter in Boston, USA. As a mother, she is quite familiar with the yearnings, needs, wishes and demands of adolescents who walk the thin line between child and woman. Rania Matar approached these lovable hybrid beings in an unbiased and unprejudiced manner. In return, the photographer received beautiful portraits of this intermediate state in the life of every human being.

Honorable Mention

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Honorable Mention Fernando Moleres | Spain / Freelance Photographer
Sierra Leone: Merciless justice
Within these walls, Spanish photographer Fernando Moleres learned of a non-existing jurisdiction and saw a deeply inhumane form of imprisonment: Central Prison, usually known as Pademba Road Prison, in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown. Although the prison is only built for 300 prisoners, it has more than 1,100 prisoners at present, many of whom are underage.
Teenagers like 16-year-old Lebbise*, sentenced without trial to three years in prison because he allegedly stole 100,000 Leones (25 Euros). 17-year-old Hilmani*, sentenced without trial because he allegedly stole his uncle’s scooter. 17-year-old Manyu*, sentenced without trial to three years in prison because he allegedly stole two sheep. He died in prison in spring 2010.
Countless cases of unspeakable misery – that’s the life of those who are imprisoned here. There are no beds, mattresses or sanitary facilities. No electricity and no water. Hardly any food. Their relatives often don’t know anything about the fate of the prisoners. Fernando Moleres took his pictures so that those who have been sentenced without trial would not be forgotten.

Honorable Mention

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Honorable Mention Ed Ou | Canada / Getty Images
Somalia: Children in arms
Internationally banned but still a mass phenomenon – not only in Africa: child soldiers. Children and adolescents are usually much easier to recruit than adults. They are often threatened with violence in order to make them join a military faction. In Somalia, the various militias have a total number of approx. 70,000 combatants. The number of children among these soldiers is growing. According to UNICEF, the militias sometimes even recruit 9-year-olds.
The affected children are usually recruited from poor families. The war has separated many of them from their parents and now they’re desperately looking for a substitute. Some may be looking for revenge because the enemy has killed their father, mother or siblings. Having a gun gives the boys power and social recognition they would otherwise never get. The mental and physical damage that they suffer will probably make them recruit and incite new young fighters themselves at some point in the future. To his distress, 23-year-old Canadian photographer Ed Ou found that this phenomenon can be seen among many young adults who were shaped by the civil war that began in 1991.

Honorable Mention

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Honorable Mention Fara Phoebe Zetsche | Germany, Student at the University of Applied Sciences for Design and Media, Hanover
Germany: Victims of hoarding at home
Towers of furniture, cardboard boxes, crumpled clothes, plastic bags, unopened packaging and old worn-out toys. When people witness such situations, they might say something like “This simply needs some tidying.” But that is usually not enough and sometimes doesn’t help at all. This is also the opinion of German photographer Fara Phoebe Zetzsche who documented the situation of people who are not able to master their daily life and provided her with an insight into their shabby surroundings. Those affected often realize the irrationality of their uncontrolled hoarding but are not able to act accordingly.
Children who grow up in such chaotic misery often lead a similar life as adults if they don’t receive any help from the authorities, doctors or from the legal sector. Fara Phoebe Zetzsche hopes that her report will raise awareness, empathy and affection for hoarding victims as well as professional help. Even if the children seem to be quite happy, they will nevertheless be damaged through this social isolation.

More information on UNICEF and awards can be found here.

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