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Malawi, 23 January 2017: Photography through the eyes of children in conflict with the law

As part of promoting child participation in Malawi, UNICEF hosted a photography workshop for 20 children from the Chirwa Reformatory Centre aged from 14-17 years. Most of the children had never held a camera before. During the five day training, they learned photography techniques including composition and lighting. Most importantly, the children learned how to tell a story through a photograph, giving life to the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”. The children’s images focused on the themes of poverty and vulnerable communities, mental illness, and the everyday life of people in Malawi.

Over 40 per cent of Malawi’s population are facing acute food shortage. In many communities people survive on whatever food is available, including fruit. The young girls are eating a lunch of mangoes. This is the only food they had eaten all day.

Over 63 per cent of Malawi’s children are deprived of basic needs such as access to water, sanitation, quality education, nutrition and health. The situation is most pronounced for children in the rural areas. These two boys seem to be pondering their future.

It is common to see children begging in the main cities of Malawi. These two are brothers, and both live on the streets. They are waiting outside a shop in Zomba for it to open, so they can ask customers for money. Despite their situation, the boys are smiling and playful.

Poverty levels remain high in Malawi. It many communities it is normal to pass on items such as clothes and shoes between parents and children as well as siblings. Here, a young boy wears worn out, oversized boots. These are the only shoes he has and he is proud to own them. Although the shoes were too big for him, he was happy wearing them as he was the only one wearing shoes among his friends.

Children in Malawi are at high risk of malnutrition due to lack of adequate and nutritious food. Even in the midst of hunger, this visibly malnourished boy smiles as he stands by the doorway to his house. UNICEF conducts mass screening of children under 5 years to ensure diagnosis and treatment of malnutrition. In 2016, UNICEF screened over 1.9 million children for malnutrition.

With over 6.5 million Malawians facing acute food shortages, it has become normal to see families gathering at distribution points. Here, a young girl carries a bag of maize from a food distribution point outside Zomba. The area has been hit hard by hunger and many families are surviving on food aid.

With over half of the population living below the poverty line, few children have warm clothing for the cold weather. It is common to see school children in rural areas covering themselves with a chitenje (wrap) on a cold day. This boy was captured in Zomba using his mother’s wrap for warmth.

As the hunger crisis continues, many parents and care givers are forced to leave home in search of work and food, leaving children without care at home. This leads to poor feeding practices, which worsens malnutrition. Here, a young lady sits deep in thought. At the time the child photographers met her, it was lunch time but she had no food to prepare.

Poverty is not only about income. It is also about the lack of basic needs such as adequate nutrition, quality education, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities and health. Of the 63 per cent of children living in poverty, 94 per cent are in rural areas. Here, a boy wears a worn-out football shirt in a rural area outside Zomba.

These children were playing in their village outside Zomba. When asked to have their picture taken, they asked to be together. According to the three boys, they are “friends for life”.

The theme of UNICEF’s 70th anniversary this year is ‘For Every Child: HOPE’. It is hope that the child photographers from Chirwa Reformatory centre discovered during this workshop – hope in a better future for themselves and their communities.



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