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Image of a street child in Odessa wins UNICEF International Photo Award

© David Gillanders
Yana, a street child in Odessa. One image captures the tragedy of HIV and poverty in Eastern Europe.

Face of a catastrophe

Eva Luise Köhler honours the winner of the "UNICEF Photo of the Year 2005" award

The Scottish photographer David Gillanders is the winner of this year’s international photographic contest, UNICEF Photo of the Year“.

His photo of Yana, a street child in Odessa, captures the scale and human tragedy of the HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe. Yana was originally from Moldova, the poorest country in Eastern Europe. Her father, an alcoholic, died young and her mother went to jail when Yana was eight years old. Yana had been living on the streets ever since, most recently in Odessa. She died on the street last Christmas, addicted to drugs and infected with HIV.

The photo shows Yana in front of her “home”  -- a makeshift shed in a park in Odessa. A group of 20 to 25 street children built this hideout themselves, the youngest just six years old. They beg, steal and prostitute themselves to survive and can only cope with their lives by taking drugs. They mix vinegar and ephedrine which can easily be bought for a few rubles at every chemist. They infect one another with HIV through contaminated syringes – Yana, too, got infected this way.

"Yana hardly said a word, however, she cried a lot," says David Gillanders who spent much time with the children. "In the photo she still holds the t-shirt she used to wipe away her tears.“ 

Many of the more than 100,000 street children in the former Soviet Union move from town to town in small groups – mostly as stowaways on goods trains. Their fight for survival is a hard one – since Yana’s death three more children of her group have died.

Yana's fate is no longer unusual in a region with the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world. Some 80% of all infected people in the region are under the aged of 30, and 10% are children like Yana.

"The UNICEF Photo of the Year 2005 gives a face to the HIV/AIDS catastrophe in Eastern Europe. It is an appeal for our compassion. We must not forget the children whose lives collapse as a result of the breakdown of their families and the harsh social environment“, said Eva Luise Köhler, Patroness of UNICEF Germany at the award ceremony.

David Gillanders has been chronicling the lives of street children in Odessa for the last three years, focusing on a lost generation of children growing up without parental protection.

The UNICEF Photo of the Year award is organised by the German National Committee for UNICEF and is supported by the magazine GEO and Citibank. More than 890 photos were submitted for the award this year -- its sixth year -- by 87 of the world’s best photographers from 20 countries. The jury is headed by Timm Rautert, Professor for Photography at the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig. 

For more information:

Angela Hawke, Communication Officer, UNICEF CEE/CIS. Tel: (+4122) 909 5433. email:

Angela Rupprecht, Concept and Project Management, UNICEF Photo of the Year, Germany. Tel: (+49 173) 547 5351. email:



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