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Syria

Swedish photographer gets UNICEF prize for Syria image

With portraits of children in Syria’s civil war, Swedish photojournalist Niclas Hammarstrom has won UNICEF’s award for the top image of 2013. The picture shows an 11-year-old girl wounded in a bomb attack.

Hammarstrom won Unicef's Photo of the Year on Tuesday. His picture depicts a Syrian girl named Dania after she was injured by shrapnel while playing in the street. The image came as part of the Swedish photojournalist's series on children in Syria's civil war.

"The Photo of the Year shows the face of the Syrian civil war: the face of an injured and severely traumatized child," said Daniela Schadt, patroness of UNICEF Germany and partner to President Joachim Gauck. "The look on the child's face is an appeal to the international community to strengthen its diplomatic and humanitarian efforts in order to prevent the loss of an entire generation of children."

In November, Hammarstrom, of Sweden's Kontinent photojournalism agency, was kidnapped in Syria along with the freelance reporter Magnus Falkehed and held for several weeks. The two were released at the beginning of this year.

'Peacemakers of tomorrow'

The photojournalist met Dania in the hospital, where she was recovering from the bomb attack. Dania was eventually able to return home from the hospital, which was destroyed in combat months later.

Hammarstrom photographed his series from October 2012 to January 2013 in Aleppo. Though Syria has become one of the most dangerous countries for journalists to work in - as Hammarstrom can attest to after his own abduction - the photojournalist has made several trips to the country since its civil war broke out as a series of peaceful protests against the government in 2011. UNICEF estimates that about half the children in Syria live in an acute state of danger from the civil war and that 3 million no longer attend school.

"Too many Syrian children are growing up without an education, without skills, scarred mentally as well as physically - yet these same children are the teachers, the doctors, the engineers, and above all, the peacemakers of tomorrow, upon whom the hope for a stable and peaceful future in Syria and the region will depend," said Tom Koenigs, member of the board of the German National Committee for UNICEF. "Their faces are captured in Niclas' powerful images, and for whom more investment in education and protection is critical."

Eighty-two photographers from 27 countries were nominated for the award, supported by the German magazine Geo. Honorable mentions went to three projects on the Democratic Republic of Congo and Germany's Gordon Welters for "Soft Revolution," which looked at young volunteers in a Russian home for children with disabilities, as well as five other efforts.

"The photo series of UNICEF's competition capture more than meets the eye," Jury Chairman Klaus Honnef said. "They also succeed in summarizing and analyzing the story behind the picture. They enable us to better understand the reality of children under very different circumstances."

mkg/kms (dpa, epd)

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