Photo-pledges from Unicef Ambassadors and World Photography Academy Members
David Beckham, UK
From 18 to 20 January 2008, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and British football legend David Beckham visited Sierra Leone to call international attention to the issue of child survival. In Sierra Leone, under-five mortality rates are the highest in the world; some 27 per cent of the country’s children die before reaching their fifth birthday. Sierra Leone also has the world’s highest maternal mortality rate, estimated at 1,300 per 100,000 live births.
While in the country, Beckham travelled to the town of Makeni in Northern Province, where he visited a UNICEF-supported health centre and learned about maternal and child health interventions including malaria prevention, immunization, and growth monitoring. He also visited community projects promoting hygiene and other disease-prevention efforts, as well as a therapeutic feeding centre for severely malnourished children. In Freetown, the capital, he met with children affected by HIV/AIDS. Mr. Beckham also played football with children in Makeni and, in Freetown, spontaneously joined a roadside match with young men.
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham holds a nine-month-old baby who is malnourished and underweight, at a therapeutic feeding centre in the town of Makeni in Northern Province, Sierra Leone. An anti-malarial bednet hangs behind them. The UNICEF-supported centre is the only one in the northern part of the country.
David Beckhan quotes “I have chosen this image to pledge my support for children’s rights. It shows a woman in a feeding centre I visited in Sierra Leone with UNICEF. She was holding her toddler close to her and you can see she just looks so worried. The child was malnourished and the woman had a cup of special, fortified milk to help the child regain its strength. The UNICEF-supported centre is the only one in the northern part of Sierra Leone, which means thousands of children still can’t get the health care they need. Every child has the right to be healthy. We can’t turn a blind eye to the tens of thousands of young children who die every day in the developing world, mostly from causes that are preventable .I pledge my make support to fulfil children’s rights. Please do the same if you can. Thank you.”
Jamie Cullum, UK
In June, the Government of Ethiopia estimated that 4.6 million people in drought affected areas were in need of emergency food aid. This meant that unless they received some form of assistance – be it from the Government or an aid agency – these people would go without food. The Government also estimated 75,000 children under five were directly affected by severe acute malnutrition in the drought affected areas. Unless children are given a voice no-one will know the unsolvable issues they face alone. UNICEF acts as the global voice for these children whilst also encouraging them to speak out on the challenges they endure. Jamie Cullum, UNICEF supporter travelled to Ethopia.
Jamie Cullum comments “In this photo I am having a sing-along with a group of young people who lived at a UNICEF supported centre for girls, many of whom had formally worked in domestic service, often as sex workers. The centre provided vital time for these girls to be children again – they just hung out with friends, had food and importantly talked to the UNICEF trained health workers and received counseling and support. They were being empowered to give their views – which sounds basic to us but is something that we take for granted. Every child has the right to a voice and these young women were finding theirs.”
“I have chosen this photo as my pledge to children’s rights, in particular pledging support for the right of every child to have a voice and take part in decisions about their lives. The image was taken whilst I was in Ethiopia with UNICEF. I was there talking with mothers, farmers, nutrition experts and lots of adults but it was these children from the local area who made the biggest impression on me. They represented the voice of the next generation. Unless children are given a voice no-one will know the unsolvable issues they face alone. UNICEF acts as the global voice for these children whilst also encouraging them to speak out on the challenges they endure. I pledge my support to children’s rights – to all of them. I hope everyone will do the same.”
Bruce Davidson, USA
Bruce Davidson pledges his photograph to illustrate every child having the right to childhood. Bruce comments “What I like are children that are free to move, to run, and to swing on branches of trees.”
Cat Deeley, UK
Cat Deeley comments “In 2008 I travelled with UNICEF to the Philippines to see how children living on the streets are missing their rights to water, education, healthcare, and protection and ultimately their childhood. The trip was full on – the poverty and pollution were beyond extreme. You can’t imagine what these kids have gone through. One night we went out and it was pitch black, the thunder and lightening started and a torrential storm came in. I squinted to try and see what was concrete, what was rubbish, what were homes, what were people, what were limbs, what were rats. I looked down to see a pile of rubbish, then realised it was a house with two baby girl twins sitting naked at the door. Homelessness is epidemic in the Philippines, with people driven to the cities on the promise of work but finding little or no support structure when they can’t make enough to live on. Parents, who don’t even have a basic education, struggle to make enough for themselves let alone their children, so the kids run wild, and they’re the lucky ones. Many of the children are runaways or – even sadder – have simply been lost. The majority of the kids are addicted to glue, crime and human trafficking are rife and both girls and boys fall in prostitution.”
“In this picture I am – as you can see – arm wrestling with 14 year old Arturo who I met on the trip. I spent a lot of time with him and his brothers and we messed around, playing and arm wrestling. He beat me of course! Arturo has lived on the streets all his life in Lawton, Manila. He was 14 but looked about 10. Thanks to UNICEF’s projects providing education and healthcare services, Arturo was doing ok. He used to be into glue sniffing and stealing – but he’s doing much better now. Every child has the right to a childhood and to reach their potential. We just need to make sure these rights are delivered or children like Arturo continue to struggle.”
“This picture is my pledge my support for children’s rights. To me, this picture means a lot. It shows an 11 year old girl I met in the Philippines with UNICEF called Juday. She was the most lovely, fun, happy little girl and she looks it in this picture. But the grim reality of this photo is that Juday is actually kneeling down at an open water pipe in the middle of the street – the only source of water she has access to. She washes and drinks from this water point with her friends. All of them live on the streets in Manila and are missing their rights to so many things – to a childhood, water, healthcare, education, protection, the list goes on. If the world kept up its promise to fulfil all children’s rights, children like Juday would be happier and healthier and be able to be children again. I think of her a lot. I pledge my support for this reason. Please pledge yours.”
Reza, Iran, based in Paris, France
Reza pledges his photograph to illustrate every child has the right to a childhood. Reza wishes to quote the following poem by Rumi:
I said what about my eyes?
Keep them on the road.
I said what about my passion?
Keep it burning.
I said what about my heart?
Tell me what you hold inside it.
I said pain and sorrow.
He said. Stay with it.
Jemima Khan, UK
Jemima travelled to Kenya in 2005 to look at the situation of children and mothers living with HIV. Upon her return to London, she helped launch UNICEF’s five-year global campaign Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS, to raise awareness about how HIV and AIDS are destroying the lives of children. The HIV and AIDS epidemic continues to have a devastating impact on children and women in Kenya, contributing to increased deaths of both children and mothers as well as creating more orphans and placing a very heavy burden on society.
Jemima Khan comments “This is my pledge photo. It is a picture of a child in the paediatric ward of Kenyatta Paediatric Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. This child could be healthy and leading a normal life, instead, he spends day after day in a hospital, suffering unnecessarily from a virus that could have been avoided. In 2007 alone, an estimated 370,000 children, younger than15 years of age, were newly infected with HIV, mainly through mother-to-child transmission and most of them in Africa. HIV can be transmitted from a mother to her child during pregnancy, at childbirth and through breastfeeding. Almost all infections in infants can be stopped with simple and timely actions such as giving the mother anti-retroviral medication during her pregnancy and delivery of her baby. In the West, children are no longer being born with HIV, but in countries like Kenya, babies continue to get infected every minute of the day. Without care and treatment, about one third of children living with HIV will die in their first year of life and almost 50% by the second year of life. This is so unnecessary and denies these children their right to health and to a life.”
“This picture is of me and Joanne. She was three years old at the time. Joanne’s mother died 4 days before this picture was taken. She ended up abandoned and alone in Kenyatta hospital in Nairobi. Joanne’s extended family did not want to take her in because of the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS. The hospital was trying to find a home for Joanne but the prospects of getting a family to take care of her were not looking very good. So many children are abandoned in Kenya after their parent’s die. If they don’t have grandparents or an extended family to take them in, they usually end up in institutions, denied their right to a proper childhood. I still remember the sadness in Joanna’s brown eyes and I will never forget the day she came and sat on my lap, yearning for some affection.”
Mary Ellen Mark, USA
Mary Ellen Mark’s photograph illustrates every child’s right to a home.
Mary Ellen Mark comments “I first met Jesse Damm in 1987 when he was a little boy—only 4-years-old. He was homeless. He lived in shelters and sometimes he lived with his entire family (and their pit bull) in a car. He was extremely stressed and he cried a lot.”
“This photograph of Jesse was taken in 1994 on the roadside in Llano, California three hours outside of Los Angeles. At that time, Jesse, his sisters Chrissy, Summer & Ashley, his mother Linda, and his step-father Dean were again homeless. They were squatting in a deserted ranch in a canyon.”
“Eventually, his abusive step-father left and his mother remarried and the family found a home. But, Jesse never recovered from the horrible insecurity and stress of his childhood.”
“As he grew, he spent many years drifting around and although he stayed out of trouble with the police, he was just surviving and always on the edge. One night, while defending his sister from her ex-boyfriend, Jesse somehow got a hold of a gun and shot and killed the ex-boyfriend. He plead guilty and is now serving a 9-year-sentence. When I contacted him last Christmas to see if I could send him anything, he said all he wanted was a photograph.”
Ewan travelled to Malawi in 2005 with UNICEF to learn about HIV and help UNICEF UK fundraise for it’s Unite for children, unite against AIDS campaign. There are a million orphans in Malawi, 50% due to HIV/AIDS the other 50% due to maternal mortality which is high in the country. Half of all new infections are occurring in the 15-24 year old age group. Girls between the ages of 16-20 are three times more likely to contract the virus than boys, largely due to cross generational sex. 80 000 children under the age of 15 are infected.
There is still a considerable amount of stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS, people remain silent, even those working at UNICEF. The hope is that increased access to treatment will lead to increased openness.
UNICEF procures and delivers ARVs on behalf of the government as their system is currently not established enough. There are 60 sites of ARV distribution, with district hospitals being targeted, but this also needs to be matched with human resources.
Ewan McGregor comments “This is me with two year old Amos, in Malawi a few years ago. Amos was in pain. Swollen and listless and suffering from malnutrition. His mother died and he is now being looked after by his grandmother, but she receives no additional support for looking after Amos and was struggling to feed him. Amos has a right like any child to be healthy, to education, to a voice and to be treated fairly. But when I met him – like so many other children – he was being denied a childhood and was suffering. I asked what will happen to Amos when his grandmother passes away and the women of the village told me he will be left alone with his five year old brother in a child headed household. Amos watched me throughout my conversations with the adults around me and as I left he gave me a glimpse of a smile.”
“This is my pledge photo to support children’s rights. It tells a story. These children are orphaned and vulnerable children in a community based childcare centre in Malawi. They are flat out asleep having an afternoon nap in a centre that’s been set up to provide them with a meal, toys and childcare and a time and place to be children. It looks basic. It is. But the centre is helping give these children their rights – care, support, education and more. I pledge my absolute support for children’s rights. I hope you’ll do the same.”
As an Ambassador for UNICEF, James travelled to southern Sudan in 2007 to see how child soldiers are demobilised and then rehabilitated.
James Nesbitt comments “I love this photo. It’s of me meeting a young man who I’ll call ‘David’. I can’t actually use his real name because he used to be associated with the armed forces in Sudan and I don’t want to put him at any risk.”
“As he was herding sheep when he was younger, David saw ten men approach wearing military clothes and carrying guns. David ran, but as he heard the rifles being cocked, he stopped, knowing he’d be killed if he kept going. He was taken with more than 100 children and marched for three days to an SPLA unit. He didn’t see his parents for three and a half years. Handed a Kalashnikov he was thrust straight into the conflict. The older soldiers would force the youngest in the unit to beat and kill, to make them think nothing of violence, to make them feel dead inside. ‘How can you feel pain when you’re already dead?’ What cause on earth is worth forcing a child to endure such horror? Religion? Ethnic identity, colonial history, control of oil revenues? These mean nothing to a child. Love, food and education are their basic rights. David and thousands like him across southern Sudan have been denied these simple rights. UNICEF helps give children back these rights. David was rescued after three years by a UNICEF-funded Sudanese organisation called Christ Mission Continuous Ministries. Now 17, he sleeps at, and helps his brother out working at his shop. He also goes to primary school. When ‘David’ was rehabilitated to the local school he was 7 years older than the other children in his class, but at least he was there. His right to education and a childhood were taken away from him early in life. Now they are being fulfilled. I pledge absolutely that every child’s right to be a childhood, to be educated, to be healthy, to be treated fairly and to be heard need to be met. The world made this promise 20 years ago by adopting the Convention on the Rights of the child. Now we need to make sure these promises are kept.”
“This photo is my pledge of support to children’s rights. It says so much. It’s a young boy carrying a toy gun in Southern Sudan. I know it’s only a toy, but the point is this is a place where many children are forced into armed forces and their right to be children is stolen away from them. I can’t show a photo of a child soldier because I don’t want to put them at risk. I travelled to southern Sudan as a UNICEF Ambassador to see how child soldiers are demobilised and then rehabilitated. The world of child soldiers shocked me right to the core – such are the unspeakable acts of violence and abuse inflicted on children recruited into armed forces as young as ten. One of them even said to me ‘The only way you survive is to know that you are not alive anymore’. UNICEF assists with the demobilisation of child soldiers and works with local organisations worldwide to help children return to a normal life and have the childhood that is their right. Every child has rights. They need to be met. The Convention on the Rights of the child is 20 years old this year. It’s about time more people knew about it. It’s basically a promise made to every child. We need to pledge our support to keep it.”
Carol Allen Storey – USA, resides in London, England
“Every child has the right to healthcare”
Further statement from Carol Allen Storey: “Ayubu is cared for by his Uncle Abel. Horrendous lesions have stripped skin away from Ayubu’s bottom, an opportunistic skin disorder derived from the HIV virus. Abel, the young carer hasn’t sought medical care in fear that his neighbours will discover they are HIV+, and they will be stigmatized. Avoiding professional care dooms them both to an almost certain death sentence. Baby Ayubu died a few months after this image was captured. His uncle now suffers from full blown AIDS and is not receiving the life saving antiretroviral drugs.”
ORPHANS are the legacy of AIDS
The photograph is part of a series about Sub-Saharan African orphans whose parents have succumbed to the HIV pandemic. By 2010 it is estimated there will be nearly 20 million HIV orphans, more than half will be infected with the virus. These vulnerable children have fallen into abject poverty, abandoned education, live rough, some are reluctant sex slaves, engage in dangerous labour and are addicted to drugs, an escape from their inexorable daily depression. More than 500, 000 children die every year from this unrelentless killer, an avoidable tragedy if these children had access to basic health care.
Jonathan Torgovnik, based in the USA
The two photo pledges by Jonathan Torgovnik illustrate every child’s right to be treated fairly and be loved.
Jonathan Torgovnik comments “Jean-Paul is one of the estimated twenty thousand children born of rapes committed during the Rwandan genocide. His mother Isabelle is struggling with multiple levels of trauma as a result of the brutal encounters, and violent circumstances in which her son Jean-Paul was conceived. She is now living with conflicting feelings towards her son, ‘I feel trauma every time I look at my son because I don’t know who his father is, and i don’t know how I am going to live with a boy who has no family.’ My greatest hope is that in seeing these images and hearing these stories, people will be inspired to act and work toward ensuring similar acts of violence never happen again and that these children have a brighter future, and are treated fairly.”