Category Archives: Reportage (VEN)

Unsung heroes, Breaking the silence

D. Rouvre

Unsung Heroes is a joint endeavour undertaken by Denis Rouvre and Médecins du Monde. This photography project “arose from the desire shared with Médecins du Monde to bear witness to the violence in the world as experienced by women” as the photographer said. “For eight months in nine countries worldwide, over one hundred women put their trust in me and accepted my presence behind the microphone, behind the lens. Despite the language barrier, cultural codes, and personal trials, these women have told their story. They have broken the silence with courage and sincerity. With tears, too, a harrowing emotion. All of them posed openly and mindfully, prepared and supported by the NGO. You are not the same after these kinds of encounters. The direct and tangible reality far exceeded the idea in my head. It was a real shock, from the very first portraits in Bulgaria. Meeting women from the Roma community doomed to marry and have children when they are teenagers in the filthy surroundings of a ghetto. Violence and extreme poverty. Moral violence, experienced by displaced Syrian and Palestinian women. Sexual violence carried out on women in the Congo and Colombia. Domestic violence, gang rapes, brutality. Not excluding our European capitals, where women who are abused, exploited, and facing precarity come up against rejection and hate. For thirty years, I have photographed many women who are putting on a front. They are looking for a controlled, smooth image from me that goes without a hitch. Here, with the unsung heroes I met, shadows are coming into the light. Bruises and cracks on the surface of the skin, in the hollows of the eyes. The voices, words, and authentic tone of the personal experience of violence are being expressed. Recounting the specific suffering experienced by women. As well as the strength of being a woman. The ability to pick yourself up and keep on fighting.”

This project brings together some 60 portraits and testimonies of women, an excerpt of which we are presenting here. The project is also available in a book, “Unsung Heroes, Breaking the silence”, published by Editions Textuel in November 2019. It was also presented as an itinerant exhibition first in Paris and then in Bordeaux. Unsung Heroes will be exhibited in Belgium during the Mechelen Exposition at the Kazerne Dossin, from March 5th to May 17th 2020.

Someone came to me to tell me that my son Ahmad had been injured. I thought it was nothing serious, because Ahmad had quite often been injured in the past. Once he had a serious injury on the knee, another time, on the head, once he got a rubber bullet in the leg… So, this time, I did not believe it was serious. There was a wedding at the village on that day. Ahmad was going, he had washed up and got dressed up. The party was starting at 10:00 AM. But people told me that he only got to the checkpoint and that’s where he was injured.

We all decided to go see the checkpoint. We waited for up to three hours for the Israelis to come, open the checkpoint and let us pass. Then, we went to the hospital, and we saw him coming out of the operating room. He was there for one week afterwards. He was unrecognizable because of the swelling in his face. He was exhausted. Unrecognizable. I knew he would not make it. After one week, on Thursday, I was worried, so I went to the hospital. Doctors told me I could not go in. I told them: “No! I want to see him!”. They responded: “If you go and see him, promise you’ll leave afterwards?”

I promised. I got into the room. I saw that they had unplugged the machines. They had closed his eyes with adhesive tape. Because of the light? They told me yes, it was so. They did not tell me he was dead. I got out and sat on top of the stairs, without feeling anything unusual. A few seconds later, my nephew, who works as a nurse in this hospital came to see me. He was crying. He told me: “Oh my auntie, God gives life and takes it back. Ahmad left us”. Then, I collapsed. I cried and screamed so much that the hospital shook.

It has been three years since I set foot in a party, even for the weddings of my loved ones. My niece got married, and even then, I did not have the heart to go there. I cannot see newlyweds anymore; I just can’t do it. It is too much of a loss. Losing your mother, your father or brother, it’s all right, but your son…

Afifa, Palestinian.

Attacks by settlers and the Israeli army, expropriation, destruction of crops and forced displacement are having
a serious impact on the lives and health of the Palestinian people.

I was at home. It was market day. I told my husband I was going to get some detergent. He told me to be quick. I stopped by my mom who sells vegetables at the bazaar and I helped her for a bit. A disabled person showed up, so I helped her too, before going to get a snack with my little sister. Then, we headed home. On the road, someone attacked me from behind and threw acid on my head. My little sister got some on her cheeks too. I got stabbed, got kicked in the head and elsewhere. I collapsed and lost consciousness.

Since then, fear never leaves me, only dreams allow me to escape. I am always scared. What haunts me is that my kids’future is ruined. Before, I was not afraid of anything, I was coming and going, I was talking easily to everyone. If I had been more educated, maybe I would have understood, and it would not have happened.

It is necessary to inform young girls. They must be frightened; they need to be wary of boys. Married women too. We think that once married, everything will be fine, that we will be respected, but we are never safe. But it is complicated, women at the village don’t understand much. We would need a place in the village where we could explain all that. We would also need a home where we would take care of the women who have been harmed forever and explain to people that physical beauty is not everything, that inner beauty is equally important.

Basanti, 29 years old, Nepalese.

Basanti has been acid burnt by her husband’s friend who
harassed her and whom she kept refusing the advances.

I realized I was different at the age of 14 years old. I knew it, but I did not have anybody to talk to, until I started to get on well with a girl from school. We became friends. I did not know how to tell her what I was feeling. One day, while my mom was out, we saw a scene in a romantic movie on TV where two girls were kissing each other. We kissed too.

In Cameroon, there is a law forbidding people from the same sex to have a relationship. Our relationship was our secret, we did not talk about it in public, we never held hands in public. People thought we were best friends. We kept the secret until my eighteenth birthday.

We were coming back from the university. My mother was away. We went to a restaurant and after that, we decided to go to my house. We thought we were safe there. Suddenly, we heard loud knocks on the door. It was the police. I don’t know who told them. Maybe the neighbours. We got followed, a policewoman had been observing us for a few days.

The police arrested us. While we were being dragged to the closest police station, really near to our house, the neighbours got out and threw rocks at us, cursing at us. “We knew it, witches, do not come back, they must be cured”. They were saying they would strip us in public. There was no one we could tell what was happening. We got put into different cells.

We were tortured. Me, at least. I do not know what she was subjected to. I never saw her again. They did everything they could so that we would not see each other again. It was worse for me, because I think her parents and brother were a little empathetic to her situation. They could defend her and take care of her. There was no one to come get me. I stayed there for one month. It was terrible.

They tortured me, they forced me to do things that I had never done before. I don’t know how to say it. I don’t want to talk about it. I was still a virgin at the time, I had never been out with a man. I stayed there and the men would enter one at a time. They would tell me: “I am going to give you a lesson. I think you will like it because you have never had an experience with a man. When you will leave this cell, you will not want to be with a woman ever again.”

Dorine, 26 years old, Cameroonian.

At the university, I was being hit on by boys. I was trying to be normal, to hide, to dress like the other girls… I tried to go out with boys or to respond to their advances, but I could not do it. I was afraid of people, of the police. There were rumours that I was gay. There was this boy whose advances I had been refusing for a long time. We were in the same class. He raped me. He had heard the rumours and called that a “sexual correction”.

He threatened to tell on me, to call the police…Finally, I told on him. But when I explained to my father that I had been raped because I was gay, he did not take me seriously. For him, it was better to have been raped than being gay. Upon my uncle’s advices, he took me to see some sort of a healer. I was scared. This healer got me completely undressed. He took leaves that he had soaked and hit me while talking in a language I did not understand. It was supposed to “correct” me.

My coming out, the rape, the imprisonment, that was the worst time of my life. I was scared, I did not know what to do. Three or four months later, I found out I was pregnant. I wanted to get an abortion. It is weird to say that because today, I love my son. But they did not let me do it. They thought that maybe it would cure me. My father tried to get in touch with his family. Not to tell on him or to tell his family what he had done to me, but to talk, to tell them he got me pregnant and ask them if he would marry me…

We cannot live in hiding all of our life. When you are gay, you get humiliated, people talk behind your back, you are afraid of going out when people know. Where I come from, homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment. We see it like that, like something evil, some kind of possession.

Right now, in Kenya, we are trying to abrogate the article from the Penal Code that criminalizes homosexuality. I am not part of the group that is working on this abrogation, but I am in touch with two of them from London. They have been fighting this for years and years.

Diana, 28 years old, Kenyan.

Dorine and Diana have both fled their home
countries where homosexuality is criminalised.

It was June. It was 8 PM. It was dark outside. We were at home. Some Raia Mtomboki arrived and entered. They grabbed my husband, they stabbed him in the neck and killed him. Then, they grabbed me and told me that they were going to kill me too, in front of my three kids: two boys and one girl. But they took me and raped me in the forest. Many died, they burnt down many houses, and little kids, adults and old people were killed, but me, they raped me.

I am at eight months… eight months ago they did that to me. When I think about it, I get overwhelmed by sadness. This child, I am going to look after him, like I take care of the other ones, and I am going to raise him well, because I am alive, thanks to God. I cannot discriminate against him, or treat him differently than the others, he is himself a child. But later, when he is going to ask me who his father is, when he will be the age of reason? How am I going to answer him?

I cannot go back to my husband’s village. Over there, they will first say that I am a Raia Mtomboki woman. Then, they will say I cannot carry a child if I don’t know about his family. I don’t think about getting remarried, or about being with a man, or being in a relationship. I only think about taking care of my children. That’s all I can think about.

Élysée, Congolese.

Élysée has been taken in and cared for by the hospital
of Panzi where Dr Mukwege repairs women.

I come from an honourable family. I wanted to have a decent life. A woman who is biologically born a woman doesn’t give that much importance to her identity as a woman, but it’s very important to me. Because I suffered a lot to become a woman.

I had to beg on the streets, I took drugs, I became a sex worker, then a dancer in a bar, that kind of thing. I saved the money to have an operation. I got informed. I saw doctors, an endocrinologist, a psychologist. I took medical certificates and went to see the plastic surgeon. To have a perfect body.

After my operation, I resumed my studies, I obtained my social work diploma and I began to look for work in the private sector. During the interviews, they always asked me questions about my gender, they asked to see me naked. I would answer, “My work will be perfect, my body has nothing to do with it, my mind is there for you.” But they always wanted to see my body, to know whether I had a penis or a vagina. It was very embarrassing, I felt ill at ease.

I understood that education was the most powerful weapon to change my world. From that day on, I began to work on behalf of trans people, because lots of young trans people have the same experience as me. I don’t want anyone to experience what I went through. I now work for the Humsafar Trust. It’s the oldest LGBTI organization in Asia-Pacific. I support lots of new-generation trans women. I conducted an awareness-raising program in the private, school and public sectors. They began to understand.

In India, our identity was recognized by a court ruling in 2014.

My friends said to me, “You can’t have children.” I replied that lots of women on earth can’t have children. I’m a real woman, like you, because I respect my body in its femininity, I respect it in its entirety. I’m a woman without an uterus, but that’s OK. Perhaps I’ll be reborn like that, in a woman’s body. My dream was to become a doctor, but I’ve not fulfilled it. That’s why I want to do a PhD. Because after my PhD, they can call me Dr  Shreya Reddy.

Shreya, 30 years old, India.

Shreya works for the oldest LGBTI rights organization
in the Asia-Pacific region.

Fighting for women’s right to decide for themselves

Médecins du Mondeacts and campaigns for the right of women to freely control/decide their bodies and to make free and informed decisions about their sexuality, health and life. Whether in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Madagascar, Côte d’Ivoire, Uganda, Palestine or Bulgaria, Médecins du Monde works with communities, civil society actors and public institutions to improve the availability and quality of healthcare services, particularly in sexual and reproductive health.

The association supports people in knowing their rights, strengthens their capacity to act and challenges decision-makers to confront their shortcomings and responsibilities. Médecins du Monde is particularly in favour of access to healthcare for safe abortion and is fighting to repeal the laws that provide for punitive measures against women and girls or healthcare workers in the event of pregnancy termination.

Testimonies edited by Thomas Flamerion

– Editorial Manager, Médecins du Monde France

Translated from the French by Médecins du Monde

In the closed door of Eastern Ghouta

Abdulmonam Eassa was born in Damascus in 1995. Until early 2018 he was based in Hammouria, Eastern Ghouta, in the agricultural countryside near Damascus, 13 km north-east of the capital. When the war broke out in 2011, he was forced to quit his studies. In 2013, the many crimes committed by the Syrian army he witnessed motivated him to start his activity of photojournalist, along with some of his friends, to cover the near-daily airstrikes, the deaths of civilians and the massacres by the Syrian government forces and supported by the Russian air force in their fight “against terrorism”. Their main goal was to share with the world the reality of what happened in Syria that foreign journalist could not cover, as they were not allowed to enter the area under siege by the government forces: the Syrian government had blocked the access for foreign medias since 2011, in order to hide what was happening in the country.

At the end of March 2018, after a period of terror and bombing during which hundreds of innocent civilians were killed, an agreement was reached between rebel fighters and the Syrian government leading to the forced displacements of civilians to the north of Syria. Abdulmonam was forced to leave his hometown. Once he arrived in the north, the situation being unbearable, he decided to cross the Turkish border. After several months of travel, he managed to get to Paris where he was able to apply for asylum.

Photojournalism has become Abdulmonam’s passion. What had started as a self-taught activity has led him to be published in the New York Times, Time, The Guardian and the Washington Post. He has worked for the Agence France Presse (AFP) and has won the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Prix Visa d’Or Humanitaire2019 award.

About Eastern Ghouta

Eastern Ghouta was one of the first regions to participate in the peaceful uprising in Syria in early 2011. The regime lost control of the region in late 2012. Almost two thirds of al-Ghouta were held by the opposition and besieged by the regime for more than five years. Eastern Ghouta is considered to be one of the regions that has witnessed the most horrific attacks by the Syrian regime. Before 2011, the population was 1.2 million. In March 2018, there were only 400,000.

Syrian civilians walked alongside a completely destroyed four-story building following shelling by the Syrian government in the town of Ain-Taram, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus, on 17 July 2017.

Volunteers from the Syrian Civil Defence (known as the White Helmets) dig a girl out of the rubble following an air strike on Hamouria, in the besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus, on January 9, 2018.

Two Syrian sisters run across the rubble to embrace after finding each other alive following an air strike on Hamouria, in the besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus, on January 9, 2018. Air strikes and artillery fire killed dozens of civilians in the besieged rebel enclave, targeted by near-daily regime bombardments.

A picture taken on February  9, 2018, shows a bandaged Syrian boy sitting in a clinic between two young people. He was injured in reported regime air strikes in the town of Arbin.

A Syrian man grieves over the death of his son following a reported air strike in the rebel-controlled town of Arbin, in the Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on December 3, 2017. A wave of Syrian air strikes killed at least 19 civilians and wounded dozens across the besieged rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Syrian civil defence volunteers pray over the body of a victim who died in a building collapse following a reported regime bombardment in Haza, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on February 26, 2018.

Volunteers from the Syrian civil defence help a man in Hamouria during Syrian government shelling on rebel-held areas in the Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on March 6, 2018. Heavy air strikes and clashes shook the rebel enclave, as France and Britain called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting on the escalating violence.

Syrians work inside a workshop producing fuel and gas from plastic waste materials in the town of Hamouria, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus, 15 April 2017.

Syrian civilians and rebel fighters prepare to embark aboard buses during the evacuation from the town of Arbin in the Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on March 25, 2018.

A Syrian woman and child walk down a destroyed street as civilians and rebels prepare to evacuate one of the few remaining rebel-held pockets in Arbin, in Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus, on March 24, 2018.

The unhoped-for end to the siege

A city under siege is nothing but a huge prison, trapping you and your loved ones inside without any possibility of leaving.

The only escape is to take refuge in your dreams and memories, but this is only temporary – every time reality comes rushing back and drags you down the hole of everyday horrors and suffering. Sounds of shelling, airstrikes, the threat of death that follows you everywhere you go, starvation, freezing weather, skyrocketing prices and endless losses.

Until March 2018, airstrikes were hitting the villages of Eastern Ghouta on a daily basis, a terrorizing and destructive rate that had not been seen throughout the years of the siege – since 2013.

In under 60 days, the landscape of the cities and villages changed completely with the destruction of mosques, hospitals and schools. The shelling was a form of collective punishment for everyone living under the siege, and a lesson for other rebellious neighbourhoods and cities. During this period, innocent people could not leave the shelters to secure their daily needs because of their deep fear from the constant shelling. Some died in shelters trying to protect themselves.

The little pocket of Eastern Ghouta that was under the control of opposition brigades and some Islamist factions was reason enough for the Syrian regime to mobilise its huge military apparatus – supported by Russian air strikes – to kill thousands of innocent civilians using all kinds of munitions. In March 2018, a large part of fighters and civilians were evacuated to Northern Syria, after an unfair deal that displaced nearly 70,000 residents from their homes and lands.

To read the article in PDF click here.

ISBN of the article (HTML): 978-2-37704-606-5 

Yemen: living with bombs and landmines

All credits and legends : © Agnès Varraine-Leca/MSF

A. Varraine-Leca

Four years of war, with more than 19,000 air strikes by the Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates-led coalition and conservative estimates suggest a human toll of 90,000. Civilians are paying a heavy price, the first victims of the coalition’s strikes as well as the ground battles between loyalist forces – loyal to Pre-sident Hadi and supported by the coalition – and Ansar Allah’s troops. The latter are themselves responsible for heavy civilian casualties, especially due to their intensive use of landmines in the west of the country(1)For a better understanding of the causes and context of this conflict, see Francis Frison-Roche, “Yemen: a conflict behind closed doors”, Humanitarian Alternatives, n°4, March 2017, p.12-33,

Agnès Varraine-Leca travelled to Yemen for Médecins Sans Frontières, three timesbetween March 2018 and May 2019. She recently documented the living conditions inside the city of Hodeidah, where a military operation started in June 2018, as well as the consequences of the bombings on civilians living in the Saada Governorate, in the north of the country, which has been most targeted by the coalition. In late December 2018, she also went to Mocha, in the Taiz Governorate, where landmines are wreaking havoc, maiming and killing children, and preventing families from cultivating their land. For a year and a half she has documented this war “behind closed doors”; a photographic work that will be published as a book in 2020.

Yemen, Saada Governorate, Haydan hospital, 20 April 2019
Patients wait their turn near the triage area in Haydan hospital. On 26 October 2015, the hospital was hit by a Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates-led coalition airstrike, partially destroying the facility. In February 2017, MSF teams returned to Haydan to start the gradual implementation of medical activities: maternity (March 2017), inpatient department (April 2017), referral to Saada hospitals (May 2017), outpatient department (December 2017). They finished the hospital’s reconstruction in April 2018. In 2018, nearly 14,000 emergency consultations and 3,800 antenatal consultations were conducted at the hospital. The same year, more than 1,500 patients were admitted to the inpatients department. Haydan is located in the Saada Governorate, which remains the governorate most targeted by international coalition airstrikes, according to the independent monitoring group Yemen Data Project (YDP).

Daily life in Sa’dah city (Yemen, April 2019)

Ayman is a barber originally from Ibb, south of Sa’dah city. In 2015, his house in Sa’dah was bombed by a Saudi and Emirati-led coalition airstrike. Twenty-eight members of his family died that day; only three survived including Ayman. He remembers the screams from the rubble, without being able to help them. At that time, he was studying IT. His brother, who owned a barber shop, died in the bombing. Thus Ayman stopped studying and started managing his family’s barber shop. This is the first time he has returned to the scene since 2015.

Ayman’s barber shop.

A camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) in Sa’dah. Mosabi and his family had to leave Harad, near the Saudi border, a few months after the war started. They fled to Hodeidah and then settled in this camp in Sa’dah. Mosabi has 19 children and 3 wives.

The court in Sa’dah was destroyed in late 2015 by an airstrike.

Destroyed buildings in the city of Sa’dah.

In 2015, a park and several shops were bombed during an airstrike near the old city of Sa’dah.

A crossroads in the city of Sa’dah.

The post office in Sa’dah was destroyed by an airstrike.

Daily life in Mocha (Yemen, December 2018)

Defused landmines. Mawza is located in Taiz Governorate, 45 minutes to the east of the city of Mocha. It is a very poor rural area where people depend on their land to live. The area was taken from Ansar Allah’s control by forces loyal to President Hadi, backed by the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition in early 2018. The fighting damaged the fields and thus, the main livelihood of the 13,000 inhabitants of Mawza. When the military troops withdrew, thousands of antipersonnel mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were planted in the area. Between August and December, MSF teams in Mocha received around 150 people injured by landmines or IEDs.

A third were children playing in the fields. Landmines and IEDs are defused by military forces. Local NGOs are responsible locating these devices.

Mocha. Nasser, 14, and his father Mohammed Abdou, come from Mafraq Al Mocha, one hour from Mocha. On 7 December, Nasser was tending his sheep with his uncle and his cousin, they were planning to go to the mountains. Nasser stepped on a landmine in a field. He and his uncle were injured by the blast. His uncle got shrapnel in his eyes and was transferred to MSF’s surgical hospital in Mocha, and then to MSF’s trauma hospital in Aden. Nasser had multiple injuries, and his right foot was amputated as soon as he arrived at the hospital. “The bone was completely shattered so there was nothing left to save”, explains Farouk, physiotherapist. Nasser had previously had his thumb amputated because of a gunshot, which now makes it difficult for him to walk with crutches. Mohammed Abdou, Nasser’s father, explains that the fighting has intensified this year. As the military troops withdrew, they planted many landmines near Mafraq Al Mocha and in the area along the frontlines. MSF is supporting an advanced field hospital in Mafraq Al Mocha. The city’s residents know some of the places to avoid because there are landmines, but there are not enough signs to indicate the presence of landmines in the area or demining personnel. Mohammed Abdou is now afraid to go into the fields around Mafraq. The picture shows Nasser trying to walk with crutches for the first time, with the help of Farouk, his physiotherapist.

Amarah, 8, and her grandmother Fatma. Amarah was injured by a landmine while playing near her home in Dubba, Mocha district (Taiz Governorate). On 1 December, she was with friends (three girls and a boy) in a sheep field close to Dubba, in the district of Mocha. Amarah saw an object with numbers: when she touched it, the landmine exploded. The explosion injured all four children, killing the boy. Fatma, her grandmother, heard the explosion and ran to the field. Amarah was evacuated on a mule. She was then transferred by car to Mocha military hospital (a one-hour drive), and then to MSF’s surgical hospital in the city. The family knows there are landmines in the area but their exact location is not signposted and many people have been injured, including Amarah’s uncle. Amarah suffered multiple injuries on the right side of her face, her abdomen and her right leg. She underwent several surgical interventions, including a laparotomy.

A child injured by a landmine in Mawza is examined by Elma Wong, anaesthetist, in the emergency room of MSF’s surgical hospital in Mocha. He was injured on 13 December with three other members of his family. Two of them arrived dead at the hospital. The child had shrapnel in his skull, arm and face.

Ali (centre), 18, comes from a small village in a very poor, rural area near Mawza, 45 minutes from Mocha. Two months ago, he was supposed to meet three friends in a field near his house. As he was late, he started running, and suddenly a landmine exploded. Usually, he is very careful when walking in the field, because he knows landmines were planted in the area when the military forces withdrew a few months ago. There are no specific signs to indicate the presence of landmines. His left leg was amputated below the knee; it was already weak due to the polio he contracted as a child. Since the accident, he has been travelling to MSF’s hospital in Mocha twice a week for physiotherapy sessions with Farouk (left). From his village, the journey takes one and half hours.

Ali Hassan, 40, is a driver and a former soldier. Father of two sons and two daughters, he has lived with his family in Hodeidah for 25 years. He was driving near Khawkha, 60 km from Mocha, when a rocket hit his vehicle, injuring six people and killing another. Ali has shrapnel in his face and abdomen and had his left foot amputated. “There is food in Hodeidah, but it’s very expensive. We have regular water shortages and no electricity. A lot of shops are closed inside the city.” Like many people he knows, Ali sent his wife and children to Sana’a for their safety. “Men are staying in Hodeidah to protect their houses. I am far away from my family but what can I do? It’s better for them to be a safer place. The war has changed everything.”

A child sits near disarmed rockets, in Mawza (Mocha district, Taiz Governorate, Yemen).

ISBN of the article (HTML): 978-2-37704-564-8

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1. For a better understanding of the causes and context of this conflict, see Francis Frison-Roche, “Yemen: a conflict behind closed doors”, Humanitarian Alternatives, n°4, March 2017, p.12-33,

Collectif item is an eye-opener

Its rallying slogan, “So as not to stay with our eyes shut”, is a leitmotiv that resonates for humanitarian workers, development professionals and social workers and which justifies our turning the lens towards these revealers that are photographers.

Created in 2001, collectif item’s members now include 12 photographers, a video and sound director, a graphic designer and an anthropologist.  Read the article

An eye on the world

Interview with Reza


 “War and peace correspondent”. This phrase, for which Reza has a particular fondness, perfectly encapsulates his view of the world, a view full of optimism in an ocean of suffering, hope under the rubble, humanity behind the madness of mankind. But revealing all this is not enough for Reza. Since the beginning of his career, the photojournalist has never ceased to use his profession and his fame to solve the problems he encounters on his reportages. No doubt because he sees a little clearer than the others…

Read the article

Humanitarian Visa d’Or of the ICRC, 2011-2017: seven years of reflection

The regional delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in France created in 2011 the “Humanitarian Visa d’Or (Gold Visa)” in partnership with the prestigious International Festival of Photojournalism held in Perpignan, “Visa pour l’image” (Visa for Pictures). With an award of 8,000 euros, this prize recognises the photographer who will have been able to present, in 10 pictures, an issue concerning international humanitarian action and law. Between 2011 and 2014, “care in action” was selected by the jury, comprising representatives of international media and the humanitarian community. Since 2015, the theme of “women in war” has been proposed for the competition. The 2017 award winner, Angela Ponce Romero, 23 years old, exposed her work “Ayacucho, the missing in conflict” in Perpignan and was viewed, as the preceding ones, by more than 40,000 visitors. Read the article

“Afghan Stories: Waiting for Hope” by Sandra Calligaro

Sandra Calligaro • Photographe

S. Calligaro

After studying art and photography at the University of Paris 8, Sandra Calligaro oriented her career to the field reporting and went to Afghanistan for the first time in 2007. Since then, she has been living between Paris and Kabul, alternating reports for the French and European media, commissioning by NGOs and carrying more personal projects with a documentary focus. First headed to be a “war photographer”, it is – on the contrary – the vulnerability of the tormented country’s daily life that has continuously fascinated her; a country for which she offers a glance full of tenderness.

We publish here a selection from her last project, Afghan Stories: Waiting for Hope, produced in collaboration with Action against Hunger and ECHO. Apart from the pictures, it includes testimonies of afghan-displaced populations.

Translated from the French by Audrey Sala

All pictures:
© Sandra Calligaro/Action contre la Faim/Picturetank

Sahr Mohamad. Maïmana, Faryab Province.

“We have 6 children, 2 girls and 4 boys. Until they reach 5 years old they are in good health, after that, they get sick, and seem to be paralysed. 3 out of our 4 boys have polio and the fourth has a degenerative disease – we don’t know which one exactly. We have borrowed 40,000 afghanis (560 euros) to take him to Pakistan for treatment, the doctor asked us to take him a second time – as well as the rest of our children – but we don’t have the means to do so unless we go deeper into debt. Fortunately, our two girls don’t seem affected, yet.” Mahajubeen, Chaghcharan, Ghor Province.

Nearly 40 years of conflict have deeply affected Afghanistan. Despite the stabilisation objectives of the country announced by the international community, the security situation continues to deteriorate. 2016 was indeed a particularly bloody year and 2017 has begun in violence. The Afghan civilians have paid a heavy price, as have health structures and humanitarian aid workers.

Jabor, 15 years-old (photo 3), Abdul Satar, 8 years-old (photo 4) and Abdul Sardar, 10 years-old (photo 5), are three of Mahajubeen’s children, Chaghcharan, Ghor Province : 


Successive waves of violence have resulted in large population displacements, both within the country and into neighbouring countries (Iran and Pakistan). 2016 saw a new record in terms of population movement: more than 630,000 people fled their villages to safer places and more than 560,000 Afghans left Pakistan. Forced to return to their country of origin after more than 30 years, it is estimated that a total of 5.7 million of its exiled population have now returned to find themselves in serious difficulties, finding suitable shelter, providing for themselves and their families and having access to basic services. In addition, frequent waves of drought and natural disasters (floods, landslides, earthquakes) make the daily lives of millions of families across the country ever more difficult. In addition, the United Nations estimate that more than 250,000 people are affected by natural disasters (floods, landslides, earthquakes) every year in the different regions of Afghanistan.


“Before the war, we had a beautiful life. Then everything collapsed. We lost all our belongings and our house was burned. Today my children are not getting enough to eat, I have nothing to give to them; and we have to get water from the river because our neighbours refuse that we use their wells.” Zahra, Chaghcharan, Ghor Province.

The current conflict continues to prevent NGOs from accessing certain areas of the country in order to assess the needs of populations and to implement their programs. Essential services remain inaccessible for parts of the population, especially for rural communities and displaced persons. 2015 and 2016 were both record years in terms of the number of attacks on health services and workers: 125 attacks were reported in 2015, compared with 59 reported in 2014 and 33 in 2013. During the first half of 2016 alone 64 attacks were reported.

Bibi Khaki (left) and Khodadad (right), from the neighbouring Badghis Province. Chaghcharan, Ghor Province.

Kimkhai (left) and Khan Bibi (right), from the neighbouring Badghis Province. Chaghcharan, Ghor Province.

The most vulnerable are once again the first victims: since 2013 the number of child-victims has continued to increase year after year. In 2016, 2,461 child-victims were counted, an increase of 15% compared to the figure in 2015. However the number of children killed because of the conflict is less than 1 % of the number of children dying of malnutrition per year in Afghanistan. Acute malnutrition and severe acute malnutrition rates have been noted – sometimes well above emergency thresholds, particularly in camps for displaced persons.

It has been established that conflict and insecurity are the major obstacles when it comes to accessing necessary services and that these also have a huge impact on chronic malnutrition and stunting.

“Of which one of our sufferings do you want me to talk to you about? Our poverty? The suffering of being a refugee? The pain of an entire Nation? I don’t even know where I should start…Look at where we are, my children are miserable. Look at my feet they’re so dirty. Look at me, I have nothing, no water, no pots to put away, nothing, nothing, I have nothing. We are stuck here, poor, but if we go back to Kunduz, what are we going to live on?” Awara, Kabul, Kabul Province.

In order to respond effectively and rapidly to emergencies caused by sudden natural disasters and conflicts, the European Commission has set up an emergency response mechanism called the Emergency Response Mechanism (ERM). Funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Operations (ECHO) it aims to meet the increasing humanitarian and structural needs of populations.

“My daughter has been sick for three years, yes it’s been three years now. She has impetigo on the neck, we’ve done tests in the laboratory and the doctors told us that we had to operate and that it would cost between 30 and 40 000 afghanis (420-560 euros). But if we can’t even spend 5,000 afghanis, how can we find 40,000?” Karim, Pul-e Khumri, Baghlan Province.

The ERM was launched in Afghanistan in 2011. The implementation of the emergency response relies on a network of humanitarian organisations, which ensures a wide geographical coverage of the country. By providing these organisations with prior financial resources, ECHO ensures that they can provide a rapid humanitarian response to the immediate needs of communities affected by conflict or natural disasters.

Zaïr Uddin, Maïmana, Faryab Province.

The first step of action of the ERM is to collect and share information on the disaster in the shortest time possible. To reduce the impact of the disaster on families, the ERM carries out an accurate assessment of their needs and then offers them an adapted response. Finally, the mechanism attempts to facilitate humanitarian access in the country that has become particularly dangerous.

Zarnegar and his son Omid. Pul-e Khumri, Baghlan Province.

The ERM currently consists of eight international non-governmental organisations (NGOs): Action Against Hunger (ACF), Aid for Technical Cooperation and Development (Acted), the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR), the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), People in Need (PIN), First International Emergency (PUI) and Solidarités International. All have long-lasting experience in Afghanistan and respect the charter of humanitarian principles – humanity, neutrality, impartiality, independence and transparency. The sectors covered by the ERM include: economic interventions; water, sanitation and hygiene assistance; disaster risk management and reduction, protection and shelter; food security and nutrition.

“I am responsible for two persons that are sick: my old mother and my sick daughter. I wish I could have good times, a lighter life filled with joy. At least here, I am calm and reassured. My children can go out without fear, and look for work. We are safe, and in a way, that makes me happy.” Sediqa (right), Herat, Herat Province.

“This, on the wall, is card board packaging for fruit juice. Rich people drink that. Our children pick it up: we cut it out for use as small storage.” Tawarook, Chaghcharan, Ghor Province.

Kadija and her cousin Mohamad, Herat, Herat Province.

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Seeing Syria again

Agnès Varraine-Leca • Photographe

A. Varraine-Leca

When Agnès Varraine-Leca arrived in Lebanon, in January 2016, five years had passed since the beginning of the war in Syria. Half of the Syrian population had fled bombings and combats: 6,6 million Syrians were displaced inside the country and 4,6 million (i.e. half of Ireland’s population) had taken refuge in the neighbouring countries and all the way to Europe. In Lebanon, they represent a third of the population. For months and years most remain blocked in the country without any perspective of going back to Syria, living in increasingly precarious conditions. One year later, their situation hasn’t change. And as for seeing Syria again…

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Neither safe nor sound: unaccompanied children in the North of France

Laurence Geai • Grand Reporter


L. Geai

In the European refugee and migrant’s crisis, one in three people seeking for refuge is a child. Among these children, there are unaccompanied children(1)“Unaccompanied minors are children aged of less than 18 years, that were separated from both of their parents and other close relatives and who are not taken care of by an adult invested with this responsibility by law or custom”, according to the definition of the European Council upon the Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)9 by the Committee of Ministers to the Member States on life projects for unaccompanied migrant minors, 12 July 2007.[1]. There is no existing census of these children. Due to their great mobility, numbers are constantly evolving. We estimate that they are around 500, permanently present on the entire Channel coastline since the beginning of 2016. Still, these fragile children are not protected. The solutions suggested by public authorities in France are limited and inadequate. They live in unacceptable conditions (lack of food, no access to water, non-attendance to school). At the mercy of smugglers and adults, they are exposed to permanent dangers: accidents, injuries, and violence including sexual abuse.

The photographer Laurence Geai went to Calais between February and May 2016 and investigated in the slum, with these isolated young persons decided to go to England. Her pictures make us recognize the harshness of the existence of these children, the risk they take and the urgent necessity of help. They remind us that they are children above all, and that the way we welcome them in our countries is a shared responsibility. Her coverage, associated to the sociological survey conducted by the association Trajectoires for UNICEF France(2)Olivier Peyroux, Alexandre Le Clève and Evangéline Masson Diez, Ni sains ni saufs. Enquête sur les enfants non-accompagnés dans le Nord de la France, Unicef et Trajectoires, June 2016,
, wants to document the situation of these young people: make them visible, to end the denial and to take appropriate measures according to their situation, their age and their fragility.

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1. “Unaccompanied minors are children aged of less than 18 years, that were separated from both of their parents and other close relatives and who are not taken care of by an adult invested with this responsibility by law or custom”, according to the definition of the European Council upon the Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)9 by the Committee of Ministers to the Member States on life projects for unaccompanied migrant minors, 12 July 2007.
2. Olivier Peyroux, Alexandre Le Clève and Evangéline Masson Diez, Ni sains ni saufs. Enquête sur les enfants non-accompagnés dans le Nord de la France, Unicef et Trajectoires, June 2016,