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UNICEF Radio wins two New York Festivals Awards for Gaza coverage

On 22 January 2009, a few days after a ceasefire went into force, a boy climbs on what is left of a building in Gaza City. 

NEW YORK, USA, 6 July 2009 – UNICEF Radio has won two New York Festivals Radio Programming and Promotion Awards for its coverage of the conflict in the Gaza Strip in late 2008 and early 2009.

A series of stories drawn from more than a dozen telephone interviews with young people and UNICEF staff on the ground in Gaza captured honours in two categories. The series, ‘Gaza's Children under Siege’, won the Silver World Medal for Best Online News Programme and the Bronze World Medal in the News category.

The New York Festivals Awards website notes that its 2009 Grand Jury listened to hundreds of entertaining, provocative and informative works produced by individuals from around the world. The jury is composed of top industry professionals from five continents and over 25 countries.

New York Festivals, now in its 51st year, recognizes exceptional work in advertising, marketing and programming in global communications through eight annual competitions.

Interviews with eyewitnesses

During the Gaza conflict – which continued from 27 December to 18 January – UNICEF Radio producers regularly called in to Gaza and spoke to children and UNICEF staff about what they were seeing.

The fighting took a particularly heavy toll on the psychological well-being of children, who accounted for roughly a third of all casualties in the conflict. A recent United Nations study reaffirmed that mental health, anxiety and stress are still major health concerns in Gaza.

On 13 January 2009, a boy runs down a street in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. In the background, smoke rises from burning fuel tanks.
"There's been constant bombing in the last three minutes in the neighbourhood," said Reem, 15, during one telephone interview. In another interview, Beha, 17, held his phone out the window to record the sound of missiles falling.

Two other interview subjects – Maram, 12, and her brother Mohammed, 15 – both described seeing pictures of their destroyed school, the American International School, on Facebook well before it was safe enough for them to go out in the streets.

No place for children

UNICEF Gaza Education Officer Ibtisam Abu-Shammala was forced to move her family several times during the crisis. "No place in Gaza is safe," she said in one of two interviews with UNICEF Radio. "No place is suitable for children."

And UNICEF staff member Sajy Elmughanni recounted the struggles of his pregnant wife over the weeks of the military operation. Mr. Elmughanni's wife eventually gave birth to a son on 4 February, a few weeks after the operation ended.

The Gaza interviews were done in both English and Arabic; they were posted on the UNICEF website and were available through the UNICEF Radio podcast and other audio distribution sites. The Silver and Bronze World Medals won by the series are UNICEF Radio's second and third New York Festivals Awards.

UNICEF Radio also won the New York Festivals 2006 Silver World Medal in the Social Issues/Current Events category for a radio feature on the crisis facing children in the Horn of Africa that year.


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