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In Chad, seeing reality through children’s eyes

UNICEF Photographer Giacomo Pirozzi teaches children in a photography workshop in Chad.


By Manuel Moreno

World Refugee Day, 20 June, is commemorated every year to recognize the desperate situation that approximately 42.5 million refugees, internally displaced and stateless people around the world face.

In Chad, amid the struggles of displacement and loss, children from different backgrounds recently came together in a UNICEF workshop to learn how to take photographs, and to share how they see their world.

N’DJAMENA, Chad, 17 June 2014 – Hachim Issa kneels down to photograph a family inside their tent in Zafaye camp on the outskirts of N´Djamena, the capital of Chad. He knows the light is right. The camera angle is perfect. “Exposure and focus come first,” he remembers. “Framing second.”

© UNICEF/2014/Pirozzi
Twenty participants from age 10 to 20 took part in the five-day photo workshop in N'Djamena.

He presses the shutter halfway to check exposure settings for the shot. The family is smiling and embracing one another. Hachim knows it is the moment and presses the shutter all the way to capture the frame.

Hachim, 16, looks like he has been taking photographs for years, but he has only just learned to use a camera. He is among 20 participants in a five-day photography workshop organized by UNICEF Chad, led by UNICEF photographer Giacomo Pirozzi.

The participants come from diverse backgrounds and have been chosen by local organizations such as the Junior Reporters Club, Children’s Parliament, associations for children living with disabilities, Koranic institutions, orphanages and camps for returnees and refugees from the Central African Republic.

Far from home

Hachim's parents are from Chad, but they migrated to the Central African Republic, where he was born. “I am not from here. I am from Bangui,” Hachim says. “My family and I left Central African Republic because of the war.”

The crisis in Central African Republic has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes and to seek refuge inside the country or across a border.

Since December 2013, more than 100,000 Chadian returning refugees, Central African Republic nationals and third-country nationals leaving the Central African Republic have arrived in Chad.

© UNICEF/2014/Issa
A family inside their tent in Zafaye camp, on the outskirts of N´Djamena. The picture was chosen by the workshop participants as best photograph.

Hachim and his family have been living in the Zafaye camp for six months, alongside thousands of returnees and refugees like them.

“My father, my mother and my brother are okay. I only lost my cousin and his mother,” he explains. “Because all of that violence, we came here to Chad.”


Mr. Pirozzi has conducted photography workshops for 10 years around the world and understands the importance of giving children a way to express themselves.

“The idea of the workshop is to let them express themselves through images,” he says. “The children themselves sit and decide where to go to take photographs and what to picture.”

Before heading out to take pictures, the children spend two days studying photographic techniques, composition, direction and light. They learn how cameras work and how to process their images.

And in the course of photographing their world, children offer a unique perspective.

“I lived with my uncle from my mother´s side, but he passed away. So now I live in Bethany orphanage,” says Ndangata Aureli, a 17-year-old participant who wants to show the reality inside her orphanage. 

While most of the participants never have handled a digital camera before, by the third day, their commitment and enthusiasm have taken over.

“We went out to the field to take beautiful pictures and to practice the exact same way Mr. Giacomo taught us,” says Yves Gindja, a 13-year-old representative of the Children´s Parliament.

Yves, who is part of a group that went early in the morning to a nutrition center, explains his feelings and the reason for his photos. The projector shows his image of a malnourished child crying on a weighing scale.

“I took this picture to make the governments aware, to stop malnutrition,” he says firmly.

© UNICEF/2014/Pirozzi
Hachim Issa, 16, was chosen by his peers as the workshop's best photographer.

What Yves shows through his camera is a frightening reality in Chad. The nutrition situation is alarming, especially in sites for returnees and refugees. According to a new assessment, the nutrition situation is alarming, especially in camps like Zafaye. The global acute malnutrition rate for children is above the World Health Organization’s emergency threshold of 15 per cent in most sites surveyed. Severe acute malnutrition rates in children under 5 remain above emergency levels.

Demanding a better future

On the last day of the workshop, a contest was held to decide the best photographer and photograph. Hachim, who at the beginning of the workshop was one of the shyest of the group, turned into a confident young boy. The photograph that he took of the family inside their tent became, by vote of the participants, the best picture of the workshop, and Hachim was chosen the best photographer.

“By seeing through the eyes of these children and young people the world they have inherited today, we must feel the growing responsibility to respond to their demands,” says UNICEF Chad Representative Bruno Maes. “Because they are demanding a better future.”

Selected pictures from the workshop will be included in an exhibition to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.



UNICEF Photography: Child's view

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