DG #49 preview: Documenting Somalia’s fight against famine
A preview of our photo essay on the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa by photographer Misan Harriman, from issue 49 of Delayed Gratification
The new issue of Delayed Gratification features a photo essay by acclaimed photographer Misan Harriman documenting the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Somalia. The UN warns that the country is being pushed towards famine and over 1.8 million children are currently suffering from acute malnutrition in the country, yet, Harriman believes, the situation is receiving little attention. “If there were 1.8 million white children from North America or Europe on the verge of death, would the world look away in the way that it has?” he asks. “Yet nobody is talking about this. If I lined up 100 people on the street and I asked them if they knew that almost two million children are on the verge of death this year in East Africa, I’m sure 90, 95 of them wouldn’t know. And if you don’t know about something, there’s no call to action.”
Here, Harriman shares a selection of images he took while documenting the crisis while working with Save the Children.
Nearly 6.7 million people in Somalia – 41 percent of the population – are believed to be currently battling widespread food shortages. Among those that Harriman met was 28-year-old Hawa and her nine-month-old son Ahmed (both photographed above), who was experiencing many of the symptoms of severe acute malnutrition. “It’s hard to convey the helplessness of a parent who is put in a place where their child’s life is in the lap of the gods: when the medical care has been given and it’s a case of waiting and hoping that they will pull through,” says Harriman. “To see that silently broken mother who is clinging on to whatever she has left, is not something I will ever forget.” Harriman met Hawa at a medical centre in the city of Burao.
Harriman spent time with a mobile health clinic which travels around the Saraar region of Somaliland – a self-declared republic within Somalia. “These health workers should be globally celebrated,” he says. “I couldn’t even count the number of families that came throughout the day and there were maybe 15 staff trying to help them.”
Harriman also spent time in a maternal and child health centre where he met Nimo (above), a 30-year-old who has been working there for almost ten years. “She was like a one-person mobile health clinic, but it was taking its toll,” he says. “She described to me how she could see this wall of doom coming. You can see the children getting more gaunt, you can see the onset of pneumonia but in terms of what they can administer there was next to nothing. You look in the supplies cabinet and it is empty. All she can do is try to slow things down in the hope that help will come.”
Harriman’s self-described “best day” came while visiting a school in Eastern Somaliland which was built by Save the Children. There he met Calaso (above), who is five. “That is a picture of a healthy child and I didn’t get many opportunities to take photographs of healthy children,” he says. “Imagine going somewhere and it is hard to find a healthy child. That’s the reality of what is happening.”
You can read the full feature on Harriman’s time in Somalia in the latest issue of Delayed Gratification, available from our online shop here and you can learn more about Save the Children’s work in the region here.
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