Pictures That Tell the Story: One Year on From The Taliban Seizure of Power in Afghanistan

It has been one year since the U.S withdrew from its 20 year presence in Afghanistan, the Afghan government collapse and the Taliban seizure of power in Kabul. After an immediate scramble to leave the country, it quickly became clear that the biggest threat to the Afghan people would be an economic crisis.

Before August 2021, much of the Afghan economy was dependent on foreign assistance. The shock of the US withdrawal, ensuing sanctions and freezing of foreign exchange reserves after the Taliban seized power has left millions of normal Afghans in dire need.

The impact of decades of war, unpredictable climate, and recurrent drought have combined to force nearly 20 million people into high levels of acute food insecurity (according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification). Malnutrition is widespread, and families are desperate, with the World Food Programme reporting that 1 in 3 Afghans are hungry, with 2 million children malnourished.

The global landscape has also changed. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a food crisis has been felt around the world, with World Food Programme supply chains particularly badly affected – disrupting their ability to deliver vital aid to Afghanistan.

Despite this, and despite complex security and logistical challenges, NGOs and charities remain committed to stay and deliver aid to the Afghan people. Arete has stayed with them to tell their stories, and to tell the stories of the individuals who need support in the face of an unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Through our journalists, photographers, and videographers, Arete has been working in Afghanistan to help ensure that this does not become a forgotten crisis. We pride ourselves on telling the stories that make a difference – staying in places that are difficult to work in – especially when attention begins to drift away. Personal stories, told through quality content are the only way to re-engage people and move them to action.

The following photographs were taken by Arete while working with NGOs and UN agencies over the last year.  

 

World Food Programme: September 2021

Afghans continue to struggle to receive money as cash shortages persist. Crowds gather outside a bank in Afghanistan, September 2021.
Photo: RM / WFP/ Arete
Drought is affecting two out of three provinces in Afghanistan. A local farmer cuts dried wheat grass in a field in Afghanistan, September 2021.
Photo: RM / WFP/ Arete
A woman begs for money on the street in Afghanistan, September 2021. Men and women across the country struggle to find work.
Photo: SN / WFP / Arete
Wazir, a 32-year-old mother of five, does embroidery as her children sit next to her in their home in Afghanistan, September 2021. Wazir and her family are struggling to source food and she says there is no work for her, her husband, or her children anymore.
Photo: SN / WFP / Arete
A butcher in September 2021. Vender and customers both suffer as food prices are forced up, due to the unstable political situation.
Photo: SN / WFP / Arete

 

Disasters Emergency Committee: December 2021

Families hope to receive medical treatment for their children, Afghanistan, December 2021.
Photo: OK / DEC / Arete
The foot of a child being treated for malnutrition in Afghanistan, December 2021.
Photo: OK / DEC / Arete
A boy at an IDP Camp in 2021. More than 8 million people are on the brink of famine as drought, conflict and the Covid-19 pandemic cause a catastrophic rise in hunger.
Photo: RM / DEC / Arete
IDP camp, Afghanistan, December 2021.
Photo: RM / DEC / Arete
Mahnaz prepares food outside her home compound in Afghanistan on 24th December 2021. DEC provides support to member organisations such as Action Against Hunger who provide feeding programs and mobile medical outreach support.
Photo: RM / DEC / Arete

 

CAFOD – Catholic Aid Agency: May 2022

Armina holds a small bowl in her hands in, Afghanistan, May 2022.
DEC member CAFOD has worked with its partner Caritas Germany to provide cash distributions for families to buy food in Afghanistan, where 95% of people do not have enough to eat.
Photo: RM / CAFOD / Arete

 

Staying in Afghanistan and telling the stories that need to be told is a vitally important task. Monitoring the changes that take place in a region and reflecting them in visual and written content that does them justice is a challenge that takes tact and understanding. If your project demands that you report on these changes, Arete can support you.


Our award-winning journalists, photographers and content providers are eager to help you make a difference.

Contact us to find out how we can tailor our expertise to meet your needs.

 

 

 


#Arete67: Arete Unites Behind Community Heroes for Nelson Mandela Day

“It is easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build.”

 – Nelson Mandela

 

In 1990 his story inspired communities around the world to rally for his release from prison. In 1994 people once again united around him to force an end to the brutal system of apartheid. Nearly three decades later the legacy of South Africa’s great anti-apartheid leader, and first black President, remains as inspiring as ever

Having suffered unspeakable brutality during his 27 years spent behind bars, with 18 years spent on the notorious Robben Island, Mandela’s desire to find peaceful solutions, his relentless perseverance, determination, and benevolent & understanding approach to change, all remain powerful symbols of human capacity for good.

His legacy lives on in many forms; the United Nations has designated Nelson Mandela Day, which falls every year on Nelson Mandela’s birthday – July 18th. 

The day was first designated in 2009 and Mandela used the opportunity to reiterate his cause.

“It is in your hands to make of the world a better place. And so, every year on Mandela Day, we ask people around the world to take action and inspire change by making a difference in their communities”

– Nelson Mandela July 18th 2009. 

 

My 67 Minutes

More recently, the ‘My 67 Minutes’ campaign has encouraged people to spend 67 minutes of their time – one for every year Mandela fought for social justice – to do something for someone else or their community.

#Arete67

As the experts in telling stories that make a difference, this year Arete decided to show its support for Nelson Mandela Day by sharing stories of inspirational community leaders from around the world, individuals that treat every day as if it is Nelson Mandela Day. Through this initiative we aimed both to celebrate the dedication of these, often unsung, heroes, and to inspire others to follow their example.

We asked our network of brilliant photographers to submit images of people, along with a few words, that exemplify the selflessness, sacrifice, and community spirit of Nelson Mandela Day.

 

Emmanuel Tombe: Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala

Emmanuel is an Arete photographer based in South Sudan. He chose to share an image of Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala, the Catholic bishop of Tombura-Yambio diocese in South Sudan. When he was nine months old, The Bishop’s mother was killed when his village was attacked and destroyed. He lived with his grandmother in a refugee camp for 5 years and his early experiences helped form his dedication to peace and education. He was also involved in providing pastoral services on a huge scale during the Sudanese Civil War.

 

Mussa Uwitonze: Boniface Mudenge

Based in Kigali, Rwandan photojournalist Mussa Uwintonze was orphaned by the genocide of 1994. His submission, Boniface Mudenge, personifies forgiveness and reconciliation in the face of extreme collective trauma.

 

Vijay Pandey: Medha Patkar

Based in New Delhi, India, Vijay submitted a picture of Indian activist and former politician Madha Patkar.

 

Brian Ongoro

Based in Kisumu, Kenya, Brian submitted the mental health advocacy of BBC Africa Digital Video Journalist Gloria Achieng.

 

Kevin Gitonga: Esther

Kevin shared a picture of unsung community hero Esther, who was trained as a local health worker by Amref Health Africa – an African-led, African-staffed non-profit that reaches millions of people per year across the continent. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Kevin Gitonga (@kevgitonga)

 

Kate Holt: Sister Monique Bonogo

Arete founder and director Kate Holt shared a picture of Burkinabe midwife Sister Monique Bonogo.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Kate Holt (@kateholtphoto)

 

Mamadou Diop: Koffi Aya Christine

Living in Dakar, Senegal, Mamadou has worked in many places across the continent. He shared two photos of CGAP (Consultant Group to Assist the Poor) agent Koffi Aya Christine in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire. The CGAP works to advance the lives of poor people, especially women, through financial inclusion. Local agents like Koffi play an important role in facilitating relationships between customers and financial service providers by sharing knowledge with customers. 

 

A massive thank you to all the photographers who took part in #Arete67. The example of Nelson Mandela proves that the virtues of one can inspire millions to action, and this small sample of incredible individuals just goes to show that the world is rich with such examples. If we celebrate them and tell their stories in a way that does them justice, their dedication to others can spread.

In this world of limitless, instantaneous information, the stories that we give precedence to have a major influence on our values & where we place importance – with selflessness, or with greed, with love or hate etc.

If each single inspirational example can inspire a few others to action, then the effects can spread across the world – so that every day, instead of asking ourselves what we have gained for ourselves, more of us ask: “what have I done to improve the surroundings in which I live?” - Nelson Mandela. 


The right story, told the right way, really can change the world. 

Our award-winning journalists, photographers and content providers are eager to help you make a difference.

Contact us to find out how we can tailor our expertise to meet your needs.


UKRAINE WAR EXPLODES GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: Millions at risk of starvation by Russian Blockade of Ukraine

 

“We’re running out of time and the impact of inaction will be felt around the world for years to come”

  • David Beasley, Executive Director, WFP

 

Arete is the expert storytelling agency for NGOs, UN bodies and foundations. We specialise in directing attention to the world’s crises where millions of people are put at risk.

This month, Arete is focussing on the millions suffering from global food shortages caused by the war in Ukraine, struggling to feed themselves and their families.

Russia invaded Ukraine four months ago, plunging Europe into its worst war since 1945.  As well as the suffering of millions of Ukrainians, the dead, the wounded, the divided families, the refugees, shattered lives, the ramifications are spreading far wider. According to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), millions of people all over the world are now at risk of starvation as a result of Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian grain exports.

Before the war, 11% of the world’s grain was provided by Ukraine, according to WFP – the world’s largest humanitarian agency focused on hunger and food security -  with 400 million people a year fed by staples like wheat shipped from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. Crucially, according to the WFP, 40% of the wheat that provided staples for its emergency food relief programmes came from Ukraine. As a result, as a knock-on effect of Putin’s invasion and blockade, the WFP says that 44 million people globally are at risk of starvation, in countries such as Mali, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. These are fragile countries, riven by complicated political, social and environmental forces – and of course still recovering from the economic devastation of the covid 19 pandemic. Many of them are also facing severe drought.

These food shortages are on top of the suffering caused by the global rise in fuel prices, created by the war in Ukraine.

Russia has so far ignored the WFP’s calls for the blockade to be lifted and the situation, says the WFP, is urgent.

David Beasley (centre of shot) on a WFP visit to Kabul, Afghanistan in 2021.
Photo: Sadeq Naseri / WFP / Arete

Arete is working closely with WFP, Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), World Health Organisation (WHO) and other NGO’s, providing both first person testimonials and powerful images to shed light on the lives of individuals suffering food insecurity – and the risk of starvation - compounded by the war in Ukraine:

 

Afghanistan

In March, the UN reported that “A staggering 95 per cent of Afghans are not getting enough to eat, with that number rising to almost 100 per cent in female-headed households”.  According to the WFP, the war in Ukraine, on top of Covid-19 and drought, has left 23 million with food insecurity in Afghanistan.

“It is a figure so high that it is almost inconceivable. Yet, devastatingly, it is the harsh reality,” said the deputy head of the UN assistance mission, UNAMA.

In March, at an emergency pledging conference, the UN only raised half of the $4.4bn it had asked from world leaders to help alleviate the crisis: the war in Ukraine was diverting vital aid and attention away from the situation in Afghanistan, a country which only weeks before the Russian invasion had being heavily covered by the media.

Darya and some of her ten children at home in Mazar-e-Sharif. The family are dependent on DEC’s aid packages, May 2022.
Photo: Muhammad Muhsen Rasekh / DEC / Arete

Darya and her family are just a few of the millions at risk of starvation if the blockade on Ukraine’s grain exports is not lifted. Darya is 43 years old. She lives with her husband, five of her ten children and mother-in-law in a rented house in Mazar-e-Sharif. Although Afghanistan does grow wheat, a combination of drought and conflict have severely impacted grain production. Darya moved there from Dawlat Abad district two years ago to escape drought and poverty, where her husband, who is now in his sixties, was becoming too frail to work as a casual agricultural labourer. Her five daughters are now married with their own husbands and families.

Darya and her family are beneficiaries of Islamic Relief’s DEC funded humanitarian aid project.  Darya was earning $1-2 a day, doing laundry and baking for families in their neighbourhood. They depend on the food they receive from Islamic Relief: 100kg flour, 6kg oil, 7kg peas:

“Before we received this, our life was extremely hard and I strugged to feed my children,” said Darya. “Now they have access to nutritious food.”

Workers load sacks of fortified wheat flour onto trucks at a WFP warehouse facility in Kabul, May 2021. Families like Darya’s depend on this grain. Shortages and rising costs of wheat have put increased strain on its ability to provide vital aid in Afghanistan.
Photo: Andrew Quilty / WFP / Arete
Mohammad is pictured in his wheat field that is irrigated by the “Unity Canal” in the village of Dasht-e Rof in Takhar province’s Kalafgan district in Afghanistan, May 2021. With the support of WFP, the “Unity Canal” was built to irrigate farmland for the communities in the district and surrounding districts, thereby helping to bring about an end to the animosity between various groups.
Photo: Andrew Quilty / WFP / Arete

WFP has worked in Afghanistan since 1963.  Their work helps to ensure that aid reaches the people most affected by conflict and disastery. They support projects that help transform the lives and livelihoods of individuals and communities, with a special focus on women.

Rations of high protein baby food at a Targeted Supplementary Feeding Programme health clinic in Aten Jelow village in Badakhshan province’s Argo district in Afghanistan, May 2021.
Photo: Andrew Quilty / WFP / Arete
Hijran is measured by a doctor while he assesses her for signs of malnutrition at a Targeted Supplementary Feeding Programme health clinic in Aten Jelow village in Badakhshan province’s Argo district in Afghanistan, May 2021. First, Hijran’s height, weight and upper arm circumference were measured and, with those measurements indicating moderate malnutrition, rations of high protein baby food were supplied.
Photo: Andrew Quilty / WFP / Arete
Bibi, is pictured in a small room in her home where she makes dairy products such as yoghurt in Takhar province’s Kalafgan district in Afghanistan, May 2021. WFP provided her with training in dairy production as well as equipment, which she uses for production. Bibi is providing income for her family by selling the dairy products at the local bazaar.
Photo: Andrew Quilty / WFP / Arete

Here is how you can support the WFP in Afghanistan: https://www.wfp.org/emergencies/afghanistan-emergency

 

Somalia

Salado Ibrahim Maney and two of her children in Baidoa, Somalia.
Photo: Ismail Taxta /WHO /Arete

Salado Ibrahim Maney is just one of the hundreds of thousands in Somalia whose families depend on international aid because of the uncertainty caused by both years of conflict and drought. The 40 year old mother of seven fled her home, in Dinsoor, and walked to Baidoa with her children, because of the drought.

“This drought is much worse than the previous ones,” said Salado. “It’s the worst I’ve experienced in my life. There’s much less food and water. We are in desperate need. We have no shelter and we had to leave most of our belongings behind when we left. I fled carrying my stuff on my back and my children round my neck. I’ve nothing left.”

Salado lost her livestock and couldn’t farm her land because of lack of rain. “There is no life without food and water,” she said. Her children have been vaccinated and given medical help by the WHO, but they still have no shelter and have to sleep outside. “We are also still desperately in need of food.  We need aid agencies to support us during this drought, and to help us rebuild our livestock herds too.”

 

Nigeria

Afolabi is weighed at the Lagos Food Bank Initiative’s nutrition centre in Lagos. Afolabi is one of the children enrolled in the Lagos Food Bank Initiative’s nutrition programme. WFP continues to support people in Lagos with nutritional support.
Photo: Damilola Onafuwa / WFP Nigeria / Arete

Conflict in Nigeria’s North-East region has displaced more than 3 million people  (UNHCR) and left another 14.4 million without food security (FAO). This has been made worse by Covid-19 and drought. On top of this, the food shortages and resulting price rises caused by the Ukraine war have all had a devastating impact on people’s lives. The FAO predicts that 19.4 million Nigerians could face food insecurity by August 2022.

Newly arrived internally displaced women and children walk through a part of the Maiduguri IDP camp in Borno state, North-Eastern Nigeria, June 2021.
Photo: Siegfried Modola / WFP / Arete
Bags of millet at the WFP warehouse in Maiduguri, Nigeria, September 2021, before the conflict in Ukraine had escalated. Ukraine was one of the world’s main sources of millet before the Russian invasion.
Photo: Bernard Kalu / WFP / Arete

WFP combines food support with cash transfers to support displaced and vulnerable people in Nigeria. To the most vulnerable and remote groups, especially young children, WFP distributes Specialized Nutritious Food - which has been proven to significantly reduce malnutrition. Specialized Nutritious Food is highly dependent on grains such as wheat, now currently globally in short supply because of the blockade in Ukraine. WFP also works with the Nigerian Government and partner organisations to prepare longer-term interventions and build resilience.

Baba brings his Cash ID to a retailer point to redeem his monthly food items in Bama, Nigeria. WFP provides cash support to the most vulnerable people in Bama, Nigeria.
Photo: Emmanuella Boamah / WFP / Arete
Aisha, 25, feeds her son Sadiki, 1 with Plumpy’Nut, a peanut-based paste in a plastic wrapper for treatment of severe acute malnutrition, as she and other newly arrived internally displaced mothers with their children attend a WFP famine assessment and nutritional needs exercise in an IDP camp in Bama, Borno state in North-Eastern Nigeria, June 2021.
Photo: Siegfried Modola / WFP / Arete
A fish farmer receives money from a customer who comes to buy fish at a Christian Aid aquaculture centre in Malakalare, Maiduguri, Nigeria on 26 April 2022. Christian Aid is a long-standing partner organisation of WFP.
Photo: Emmanuella Boamah / WFP / Arete

Here is how you can support the WFP in Nigeria: https://www.wfp.org/emergencies/nigeria-emergency

 

Sri Lanka

 Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since it gained independence in 1948. Covid 19 has severely impacted the country’s economic outlook, and reduced agricultural production. In addition, scarcity of foreign exchange reserves and depreciation of the local currency have caused food shortages and a spike in the cost of living (WFP). The monthly cost of a nutritious diet has increased by 156%, while income has fallen in at least 62% of households (UNICEF). A sharp rise in oil and gas prices, also connected to the conflict in Ukraine, has contributed to the crisis.

A vegetable vendor sorts his produce at the Pettah Market in Colombo, June 2022. With the depreciation of local currency and falling earnings already making food unaffordable, the increase in oil prices (related to the conflict in Ukraine) along with the global shortage of imported grain have severely compounded the problem.
Photo: Tashiya de Mel / WFP / Arete

Malnutrition rates in Sri Lanka were already high before the economic crisis, the pandemic, and the invasion of Ukraine. Sri Lankan women and children suffered from far higher rates of malnutrition than most other middle-income countries, with 17 per cent of children under five too short because of stunting (WFP).

Trishaws line up in a fuel queue in Colombo, June 2022. Since this photo was taken all sales of fuel have been suspended in Sri Lanka due to severe shortage.
Photo: Tashiya de Mel / WFP / Arete
Damayanthi, mother of two, cooks on a wood-fired stove outside her home due to gas shortages, Colombo, June 2022.
Photo: Tashiya de Mel / WFP / Arete
People line up with their gas cylinders in a queue for several hours, Colombo, June 2022.
Photo: Tashiya de Mel / WFP / Arete

WFP supports Sri Lanka’s national health system in preventing and managing malnutrition, including improving access for families to fortified foods; many of these foods are highly dependent on WFP grain imported from Ukraine. WFP also works with the Sri Lankan Government on safety net programmes to protect families in emergencies, but the current crisis is rapidly getting worse by the day.

Volunteers hand out free meals to a community kitchen in Colombo, Sri Lanka, June 2022.
Photo: Tashiya de Mel / WFP / Arete

Here is how you can support the WFP in Sri Lanka: https://www.wfp.org/countries/sri-lanka

 

UKRAINE WAR – THE FALL OUT IS HURTING PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD

The war in Ukraine is not only causing grief and destruction to millions of Ukrainians. Its knock on effects – grain shortages and fuel inflation – are putting millions globally at risk from hunger and poverty.  It is vitally important that those people’s stories are told in a way that can grab the world’s attention.


Our award-winning journalists, photographers and content specialists are eager to help you make a difference. Contact us to find out how we can tailor our expertise to meet your needs.


Only One Earth: The Power of Imagery to Promote Change on Environmental Issues

In the universe are billions of galaxies,
In our galaxy are billions of planets,
But there is #OnlyOneEarth.
Let’s take care of it.

(un.org)

June 5th marks World Environment Day, and the theme this year is #OnlyOneEarth. It is a day to appreciate the unique and precious planet that we call home, as well as to raise awareness of the fragility of the environment on which we, and all other living organisms, depend.

With every year that passes, environmental action becomes more urgent, and as our understanding of climate change, habitat loss and pollution increases, it is the role of many charities and NGOs to communicate the growing threats and required action to the public.

However, as the issues become more complicated, the effects of climate change become felt in more unforeseen ways around the world, and the statistics stack up against us, people can feel powerless in response.

But, as is so often the case, when the scale and complexity of the challenges we face are overwhelming, photography steps up to communicate over and above language and statistics, engaging people and moving them to action.

Photography has a unique power to engage on a personal, human level - confronting the viewer with the truth that lies behind the image in a way that can make people understand in a split second.

So, to mark World Environment Day 2022, we asked a selection of the fantastic photographers we have worked with in recent years to share a photograph or two that means #OnlyOneEarth to them:

 

Vijay Pandey

@vijaypandeyphotography

Vijay is a documentary photographer based in New Delhi, India. Along with working with Arete, he has also worked with other major media organizations including VICE, Outlook India, and Tehelka Magazine.

An activist hugs a tree during the "Save The Tree Campaign" in New Delhi, taking a stand against thousands of trees being cut down in the National Capital to expand government housing facilities and create commercial infrastructure on June 26, 2018 in New Delhi.
Photo: Vijay Pandey

“Trees are the lungs of the earth. It is due to the existence of trees that we inhale fresh air. Earth’s green cover is depleting fast over the years due to rampant tree felling. We have built a concrete jungle by cutting down the trees. The drive for civilization and modernization is harming the environment to an irreversible extent. When man violates nature the planet suffers and we have to bear the harmful consequences. Delhi is among the most polluted cities in the world. According to reports, the city is suffering gravely from pollution and an increasing number of residents are struggling with breathing disorders. In the past two decades lakhs of trees were cut in the name of development projects which reduced the city’s forest cover. Temperature is on the rise because of continuous removal of the green walls of trees. This is our planet and we have to protect it. There is no point of development when people are going to die because of pollution. If deforestation continues the planet will not be inhabitable for future generations because of this imbalance.”

Vijay Pandey

Brian Ongoro

@brian_ongoro

Brian is a photojournalist based in Kenya and has recently worked with Arete on projects for Chance for Childhood and Tearfund Canada.

Community volunteers remove plastic and other waste from River Wigwa in Kisumu, western Kenya on September 18, 2021.
Photo: Brian Ongoro

 

Aaron Palabyab

@aaronpalabyab

Aaron is a filmmaker and landscape, time-lapse, and astrophotographer from Metro Manila, Philippines. He works as a director, cameraman, and editor around the Philippines and the world, specialising in travel and documentary.

70m wind turbines stretching in a row for 9 kilometres dominate the landscape at sunrise at the Bangui Wind Farm in Ilocos Norte.
Photo: Aaron Palabyab

“To me, the photograph speaks of the power of the Earth to provide for everyone if we consciously seek a new definition of progress, one that is more patient, and that seeks to preserve the natural cycles that sustain all life.”

Aaron Palabyab

 

Rudolph Michel de Girardier

@rudiwildd

Rudolph is a filmmaker, photographer and storyteller based in Cape Town, South Africa, specialising in wildlife, conservation, and social impact.

Children from the semi-nomadic Mbororo pastoralist tribe in Chad investigate us while their bull walks forward on my approach, as if protecting its tribe. Comprising less than 5% of the world's population, indigenous people protect some 80% of the world's biodiversity (Gleb Raygorodetsky, National Geographic).
Photos: Rudolph Michel de Girardier

“On a month-long documentary assignment for Random Good Films, deeply immersed in the vast plains of the Saharan Desert, we were privileged to observe the sustainable practices of this tribe, their connection to the environment and the respect they hold for it."

Rudolph Michel de Girardier

 

Khalid Ozavogu Abdul

@ozavoguabdul

Khalid is an independent travel documentary photographer and filmmaker based in Abuja, Nigeria. He has recently worked with Arete on behalf of UNESCO in Nigeria.

Khalid believes that photography and filmmaking can inform, educate, and shape narratives, and as such, for him it is about storytelling and truth-telling—to better help us see and understand situations.

Clouds hover over the rolling hills of Gembu, a remote region in Nigeria’s Mambilla Plateau, on July 19th 2021. The Plateau is Nigeria’s northern continuation of the Bamenda Highlands of Cameroon. The Mambilla Plateau has an average elevation of about 1,600 metres (5,249 ft) above sea level, making it the highest plateau in Nigeria. Some of its towns and villages like Gembu, are situated on hills that are at least 1,828 meters (5,997 ft) above sea level. The Mambilla Plateau is also home to the Gashaka Gumti National Park, the largest national park in Nigeria.
Photo: Khalid Ozavogu Abdul

More on the Mambilla Plateau region can be found in Khalid’s recent Gembu Vlogs Travel Series on YouTube: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLLB5BVxO7DnpkVFnAKGUmRlaFDTrYlNPi

“This photo demonstrates to me the uniqueness of our planet—where energies and life, can be felt through the ever-present elements of nature.”

Ozavogu Abdul

 

Anthony Upton

@ant_upton

Anthony is an editorial photographer based in London and working with major newspapers as well as charities and NGOs. He has recently worked with Arete on behalf of the Disasters Emergencies Committee in Ukraine.

Fog covers Pewsey Vale from Martinsell Hill in Wiltshire.
Photo: Anthony Upton

Fog is made up of many very tiny water droplets or ice crystals. When the air close to the ground is cooled, water vapor condenses into tiny liquid water droplets, which are suspended in the air. This can occur because of added moisture or falling air temperatures. In simplest terms, the dew point (a measure of moisture) must be equal to the temperature for fog to form.

The lowest temperatures occur early in the morning, usually between 5 and 7 am. This means that the temperature will drop closest to the dew point temperature during this time. In addition, the relative humidity rises as the temperature drops, so there is more moisture availability for condensation to occur. With longer nights in the Fall and Winter, there is more time for this process to occur.

Not only does fog form in the morning, it also usually clears quickly in the morning too. Once the sun comes up, it heats the ground and raises the temperature. This brings the temperature away from the dewpoint and causes the fog to mix out.

Photo: Anthony Upton

“To paraphrase Marcel Proust in ‘Remembrance of Things Past’, the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes… Although I've travelled to many parts of the world, I'm reminded that it's important, really important just to look at my surroundings wherever I am. Be it here in England, close to my home, or in far flung distant lands. There is beauty to be protected if we only open our eyes to it and not see the environment as something to be exploited for profit.”

Anthony Upton

 

Kate Holt

@kateholtphoto

Kate is an award-winning photojournalist, she is a Guardian contributor and teacher, as well as being the founder and Director of Arete.

Juvenal Munganka, who has been a park ranger for 17 years, watches "Bonne Annee", an Eastern Lowland Gorilla, eat vegetation in the Kahuzi Biega National Park, Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, on Tuesday, June 4, 2019.
When the Kahuzi Biega Park was first established 50 years ago, their habitat was over 8000 square miles of the DRCongo, an area that has halved along with the number of gorillas. Rangers face daily threats and four have died in the last year from attacks by poachers and people exploiting the park. Juvenal says, "when I first started it was a different time. We worked without guns. Then after the militias came into the park we were allowed to be armed. "
Photo: Kate Holt

“These photographs demonstrate to me how fragile much of our planet is… The rangers who work with the endangered Gorillas in the DR Congo wear masks to prevent them from catching human diseases that they have no immunity too. Often the rangers are killed while protecting the gorillas as seen in the second image [below]. Protecting some of the most important ecosystems in the world is dangerous and complex. We must accept that without our protection though they wouldn’t exist. We mustn’t give up protecting them for the good of the planet and for future generations.”

Kate Holt

A park ranger walks past the grave of another park ranger who lost his life in 2017 to a poacher in Kahuzi Biega National Park, Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, on Tuesday, June 4, 2019.
Photo: Kate Holt

 

Mussa Uwitonze

@mussa.photography

Mussa Uwitonze is a photographer and visual storyteller based in Kigali, Rwanda. Capturing images of people and places, his photographs tell a story of diversity and real life.

A man picks up a water bottle thrown by tourists on Prison Island, Tanzania. The Government of Tanzania banned plastic from 1st June 2019. All plastic carrier bags are prohibited from being imported, exported, manufactured, sold, stored, supplied and used in Tanzania.
Photo: Mussa Uwitonze

“To me this picture represents environmental beauty that should be preserved. For instance in Zanzibar a huge majority of people eat sea food… I imagine how their lives would be if it all died out? I think we should take care of our environment the same way we take care of ourselves.”

Mussa Uwitonze

 

Karel Prinsloo

@karelprinsloo

Karel Prinsloo is an award-winning photographer who has been working mainly in Africa for almost thirty years. He works for various NGOs and news organisations throughout Africa, like UNICEF, WFP, GAVI, IFAW as well as for major international news media from his base in Paris, France.

Paulina Lino, a beneficiary of Ethical Tea Partnership’s landscape initiative, works in the field at her farm in Kundi village, Malawi on 25th August 2021. Ethical Tea Partnership continues to support several training and outreach programmes in Malawi, in order to create a thriving tea industry that is socially just and environmentally sustainable.
Photo: Karel Prinsloo / Ethical Tea Partnership / Arete

 

Nafkot Gebeyehu

@fuabilich

Nafkot is a portrait and documentary photographer based in Ethiopia. With a passion for visual storytelling, Nafkot finds inspiration from everyday people and shared experiences. She has recently worked with Arete on behalf of Tearfud Canada in Ethopia.

Mesineh Merkineh prays with market-goers in Abala Farecho Village, Sodo Wolaita in Ethiopia on 29th July 2021. For months, he’s been coming to the local market every Thursday in the late afternoon to pray for the nation. "Oh lord, forgive us!" He cries. He makes the people kneel down. "We need to pray for forgiveness! God must heal our land."
Tearfund Canada continues to support several training and outreach programmes, with the help of Terepeza Development Association in Ethiopia to assist vulnerable, impoverished communities.
Photo: Nafkot Gebeyehu / Tearfund Canada / Arete

 

Isak Amin

@isak_amin

Isak is a Somali photographer who specialises in landscapes, nature, and travel photography. Isak has been working with Arete for many years for a range of UN agencies across East Africa.

Widespread drought has devastated Tuli Village for 2 years. Now there is no rain, people are going to the big cities to get water and food and livestock is severely diminished.
Photo: Isak Amin / FAO Somalia / Arete
Abdirahman (pictured above) was hit by a severe drought in Garbahaadley, Somalia and lost a large number of livestock.
Photo: Isak Amin / FAO Somalia / Arete

 

Bernard Kalu

@kabenny_

Bernard Kalu is a visual artist based in Lagos, Nigeria. With a passion for humans and the stories they tell simply by existing, his work aims to explore life and humanity.

Featured in this photo is a woman working at the Olusosun Landfill, in Lagos. This photo demonstrates the scale of single-use plastic as one of the world's major pollution causes. Recycling is touted as a solution, yet less than 30% of plastic waste is recycled.
Photo: Bernard Kalu

“The picture shows our effort in fixing our declining climate. However, in line with this year's theme #OnlyOneEarth - I'd hope measures towards tackling climate change are more widespread and robust going forward; because even though recycling is a decent way to handle plastic waste, a more potent action for example, would be passing policies against the production and usage of single use plastic and opting for more sustainable alternatives.”

Bernard Kalu


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The Power of Social Impact Reporting

Arete, the expert storytelling and training agency for NGOs, UN bodies and foundations, specialise in high-quality content gathering. 

Storytelling is one of the most effective communication tools. Impact stories put a name or a face to an organisation, realising its mission and providing insight into the lives or communities they are helping. Successful social impact storytelling can inspire people to act and bring about positive change. 

Reporting back is a key part of every charity and NGO’s relationship with the public, their stakeholders, partners, and supporters. Arete’s work with the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) is an example of how appeal reporting works in practice. The DEC has played a leading role in responding to the war in Ukraine – with its appeal now totalling over £300 million. 

With the crisis in Ukraine, media attention is focused on the dramatic events of the unfolding conflict, its escalation, political commentary, and the response of aid workers. Therefore, it is vitally important that charities report success stories through first-hand accounts, photographs, and videos, like the content collated for the DEC below:

It is easy to forget that before the invasion of Ukraine came into the spotlight, aid for the crisis in Afghanistan was the focus of attention, and the DEC had raised over £30 million (as of February) in its Afghanistan appeal. It is unfortunate that the DEC is in such demand. However, their success rides on their reputation for swift humanitarian response, demonstrated through quality impact reporting. 

Reporting back is vital because, with an overwhelming number of negative reports coming from crisis areas and no positive impact stories to counteract them, confidence can dwindle, as supporters lose faith that they can make a difference. This is particularly relevant in a long-term humanitarian situation like Afghanistan, where supporters can suffer fatigue due to what appears to be a lack of progress. It is key to portray a balanced view; showing that as well as success stories, there is also a lot more work to be done.

Labourers carry wheat flour to trucks at a WFP warehouse that manages logistics for Afghanistan response, December 2021. Persistent malnutrition, high vulnerability to natural disasters, the effects of climate change and declining smallholder production are some of the challenges experienced by local communities.
Saiyna Bashir / WFP /Arete

The challenge when reporting back is to present this balanced view with transparency and authenticity while keeping content as engaging as possible for your intended audience. If your content comes across as sensationalised, or viewers and readers detect any air of exaggeration they will begin to question reports. Equally, if they detect too much authorship in the content – e.g. your video is too stylised, or written content is opinionated, supporters are likely to distrust or doubt what they are being told. 

It takes experience to judge the right tone of reporting for your audience, and high-level technical skills from quality photographers, journalists, and videographers to convey this sense of authenticity and integrity with robust and substantive information that is as engaging as possible. While shoddy creative materials will stand out, creating emotional distance and disengagement, the best technical input will mean that any sense of overt authorship fades into the background — allowing stories and the individuals in them to take centre stage.

Halima receives a food package from Christian Aid in Herat, Afghanistan. The Disasters Emergency Committee are working in partnership with the NGO Christian Aid to deliver lifesaving aid to people in need.
Osman Khayyam / Disasters Emergency Committee / Arete

"Photography is one of the most powerful means of communication. Photographs provide whole, intuitive, immediate understanding. Through an image the wider perspective and the individual details can be taken in all at once. A picture can capture the core message, connect us to the story and enable us to empathise with the subject in an instant, within the context of the bigger picture.”

Julia Fairrie, Communications Specialist

 

A refugee from Burundi holds up some dried corn that makes up part of her food aid at a WFP distribution site in Nakivale Refugee Camp, Isingoro District, Uganda, Nov 12, 2019  
Kate Holt / Opportunity International UK / Arete

 

Using Statistics 

Collecting key data and statistics is going to be important for your organisation’s operations as well as for reporting. Understanding what worked and what didn’t is vital in order to build a framework that can be used in future emergencies, and having clear objectives and parameters upon which to judge the extent of your success is key to this. If you have collected a large amount of data, that’s great, but when it comes to reporting back it is all about understanding your audience when deciding how much to include and how to present it. 

Corporate fundraisers may have requested a long-form, matter of fact report, with absolutely everything documented – and it’s very important to honour relationships by delivering to their expectations. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do everything in your power to present statistics in the most engaging form possible – they will also thank you for as many visual aids and representations as possible, rather than 100 pages of dense text. Most of the time you will want to use statistics sparingly, weaving them in with other forms of content to make information digestible and to have a lasting impact on viewers/readers. 

 

Putting People At The Heart Of The Story 

At Arete, we aim to give people a voice to tell their own stories. Real stories connect with our emotions and inspire us.  The video below, produced by Arete for the World Food Programme and Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, is a great example of how we do this, blending in some statistics on the wider impact of projects.

The power of Istaahil’s story outweighs anything that can be written by a third party, and the format and atmosphere of the video allow it to have an emotional effect on the viewer. Representatives of the WFP provide context on how the project was undertaken, but the authenticity of Istaahil’s smile comes through over and above anything else – ultimately beneficiaries are the only people who can provide a clear and unequivocal endorsement of positive impact, as Istaahil does when she says:

 “With their support, we improved our farming, and thanks to Allah we are harvesting crops.” 

While statistics illustrate the scale of positive impacts, only individuals can communicate what those changes mean to them as people. 

“There's nothing like putting something in the first person, and that person telling us about what their experience has been. Because it cannot be questioned. And that’s why when you are running a fundraising campaign, that ability to go into the field, to find the people that the fundraising has impacted, you need to find that voice.”

- Kate Holt, Photojournalist & Founder of Arete

 

35-year-old Benesh, in Herat, Afghanistan. The Disasters Emergency Committee are working in partnership with the NGO Christian Aid to deliver lifesaving aid to people in need.
Osman Khayyam / Disasters Emergency Committee / Arete

 'I have suffered, and had a hard life. This food assistance helps to keep my family alive'

- Benesh, pictured above

 

There may also be unexpected positive impacts that come through in interviews and testimonials that could be overlooked by statistical reporting and second-hand accounts, such as how projects are affecting wider generations or neighbouring communities. 

 

Zooming In and Zooming Out

The WFP/FAO video above is also a good example of the effectiveness of starting with the human interest story, then zooming out to the wider context of the project, before zooming back into the human interest story to conclude. This formula is highly effective in most cases but is especially helpful to employ when the statistics actually show that the wider situation is worsening, rather than improving.

Zainabu, a 34-year-old women's refugee leader who has recently arrived from Burundi, poses for a photo with one of her three children, in Nakivale Refugee Camp Isingoro District, Uganda, in 2019.
Kate Holt / Opportunity International UK / Arete

If there is more work to be done and the statistics make for difficult reading, one way to combat readers’ tendencies to feel hopeless is to remind them that making a difference in an individual’s life is still significant. Individual success stories provoke positive feelings of achievement, which will almost always make viewers/readers seek that feeling again. Zooming out, in turn, places the individual story in its wider context, which can move people to further action or highlight new areas for future involvement.

“I think that’s really at the heart of what reporting back is about. Closing that loop. And that’s what we aim to do at Arete, we help clients close that loop” 

- Kate Holt, Photojournalist & Founder of Arete

 


Our award-winning journalists, photographers and content providers are eager to help you make a difference.

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Forgotten Crises: The Power of Storytelling to Restart the Conversation

The Yemeni children in the photograph above have some idea of how the children in Ukraine are feeling – except that they have never known peace. The war in Yemen has been going on since 2014 – all these children’s families have been displaced by the conflict. Called ‘the forgotten war’, Yemen’s situation today is worse than ever. As of 14 March 2022, around 17.4 million people are in need of food assistance, according to UNICEF. In response to this, the UN has requested US$4.2 billion in aid from member states, but on 16 March world leaders pledged just US$1.3 billion – leaving the people of Yemen in desperate need.  But Yemen, like Syria, Afghanistan, Congo and so many other human tragedies, is not currently the focus of the world’s attention.

 

New crises give you opportunities to revisit old crises or bring them back to the fore” Jonathan Clayton, Arete journalist and veteran foreign correspondent.

 

Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine is dominating the news. Western nations are transfixed both by the conflict’s apocalyptic potential for nuclear war, and the millions of refugees streaming from Ukraine into the rest of Europe. In a world with an increasingly short attention span, Ukraine has the advantage of being the latest war in town and has the power to galvanise politicians to action and to electrify the mainstream media and their public. As a result, there have been overwhelming gestures of international support and unity for Ukraine; borders have been opened for Ukraine’s desperate, bewildered refugees, and millions of dollars of much-needed aid relief are pouring into Ukraine – given both by nations and individuals.

But that doesn’t mean that other people in other regions, other crises, are not still suffering.  Unfortunately for the Yemeni children in the photograph, as Ukraine’s plight is soaking up the headlines, it also grabs the sympathy and the cash so vital for aid.

 

“You need to think outside the box. It may be the best way is to juxtapose or make parallels between the forgotten crisis with the ‘more current’ crisis to point towards the people in the world that have been forgotten.” Jonathan Clayton

 

This is when Arete’s work becomes all the more important. We have a reputation for going to places that others avoid. Our award-winning photographers, journalists and videographers are specialists at finding the stories that need to be told, to bring the people in these forgotten disasters back to the world’s attention. We are currently working with War Child in Yemen. We are working with the World Food Programme in Nigeria - where WFP continues its vital famine prevention work - and with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as they provide emergency support to communities affected by drought in Somalia.

 

Hussein, 13, poses for a photo with his goats on a footbridge in Somalia. FAO is working with local NGOs in Somalia to help support communities affected by desert locust invasion and drought.
Abdulkadir Zubeyr / FAO / Arete

 

Jonathan Clayton is an Arete journalist and editor, with more than 40 years of experience working as a foreign correspondent, writer and editor for both Reuters and The Times.

 

Jonathan Clayton talking with refugees at a UNHCR camp.

 

How do you make a situation relevant again to the wider world in order to build support and help bring about positive change?

People always get tired of crises when they can’t see any hope … when it has been going on for a long period of time, it is very hard to rally public support… Rwanda is now lauded as it has seen such huge progress, however, Congo has barely moved on, and…there is a limit to what people can stay engaged with.

“If you look at the crises that are forgotten, like the Western Sahara, or Rohingyas – from a news point of view, no one is interested. Even looking at Afghanistan with the country in dire straits, it’s a really hard sell for the mainstream media…

“You need to be more innovative in the way that you bring that crisis home to people. People were exhausted with stories of Somalia and Congo long before Ukraine started….”

“But the differences in the stories highlight the similarities, two different human beings in two different geographical locations, experiencing the same thing – you can use more recent or relevant crises to draw parallels between ongoing or forgotten crises in this way.”

 

Bitale, 47, is a refugee from Congo, now living in Uganda. She understands only too well the terror, grief and bewilderment afflicting the Ukrainians. 

Bitalie, 47, fled Congo for Uganda in 2017. In the chaos she lost her family. Five years later, she still does not know where her husband and children are, or whether they are alive or dead.
Kate Holt / Opportunity International / Arete

In 2017, Bitale fled her home in Uvira, Congo’s South Kivu province, when her village was attacked by the terrifying Mai Mai militia. In the chaos, she lost all her family, including her four children. She dreams of one day seeing her children again. She now lives in Uganda.

“They killed all of my neighbours, so I was very scared. I lived with my family. There were nine of us - myself, my husband, my four children, my brother, his wife, and my brother’s child. 

“We decided to run ... we ran by foot through the forest …  we ran and ran … we reached Kamanura, and from there we got a bus that took us to Bukavu.” But in the confusion, the family were separated and she lost track of her children. After a long journey, by boat and on foot, Bitale reached Uganda.  

Bitalie holds a piece of paper with the names and ages of her children written on it.
Kate Holt / Opportunity International / Arete

A year later, Bitalie returned to Congo in the hope of finding her husband and children, but instead she found only ruins; the village was raided nightly by the Mai Mai. After six months, she gave up and went back to Uganda. A tailor for 20 years in Congo, Bitale can survive financially in Uganda because – on her brief return to Congo in 2018 - someone in the Church gave her a sewing machine, which she carried back to Uganda on the bus.

 With the support of the NGO Opportunity International, Bitalie now runs her tailoring business from Nakivale. She makes between £100 and £2 a week, depending on business. “If I can pay my rent, I buy things like tomatoes to mix with the food we are given. But all I want is to see my children again.” 

 

Jonathan Clayton:

“You have to work harder to have these stories heard. The challenge is that you get a disconnect between what’s happening in the news, so at the moment we all know about Ukrainian refugees, and before that Afghanistan and so on.”

 

So, you could use what is happening in Ukraine to revisit other crises?

“Yes, for instance… ‘this happened in Ukraine last week, but so and so lost their home 20 years ago and is still hoping to go back from the Democratic Republic of Congo’.

“Or ‘what is it like when your neighbours turn on you’ (like Russia and Ukraine) – along with applicable stories where tribalism is a key driver of violence...

It’s not necessarily new crises against old crises. …But there are some situations, such as those in Azerbaijan or Georgia, that would now be easier to cover with the similarities to Ukraine making them more attractive again.”

 

13-year-old twins of Azerbaijani heritage who had lived in Ukraine for the last 15 years, wait at Przemsyl train station in Poland. They are hoping to travel onwards to Germany. According to the UN more than 500,000 refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion with many of them being forced to queue for over twenty-four hours to cross the borders into Poland, Moldova and Romania.
Anthony Upton / DEC / Arete

 

How does the power of storytelling with images and the written story have an impact?

“The written word, as long as it is well illustrated, has an advantage over video. You will, by definition, be appealing to a small audience – it is not going to be prime time news. The narrative we always get is that video is so much more hard hitting. I think that is true with something like the current crisis in Ukraine. But when time elapses, good print stories come into their own. They allow you to tell a good story that is not necessarily topical. At best they are human interest stories, or success stories – because you are not going for the news pages, you are attempting to appeal to people.”

Jonathan’s wisdom and expertise is just one example of Arete’s bank of knowledge.  At Arete, we pride ourselves on connecting NGOs, charities and foundations with the most talented journalists, photographers and videographers. At Arete, we tell individual stories. Most importantly, as much as possible, we give individuals the means to tell their own stories.

 Arete’s team has the experience and understanding to tell stories in the most effective ways - and get them seen by the right people - so the stories have the greatest possible impact. You may think that, as Ukraine dominates the headlines, your campaign, your country, is likely to get less attention, but at Arete we know how to use the situation as an opportunity. We help to find the humanity in a crisis that brings the tragedies and resilience of these people back to the world’s attention. And we know how to make the world focus.

A seven-year-old boy wears a face mask whilst holding a hygiene kit during a distribution in Goma, D. R. Congo. War Child was distributing hygiene kits and informing people about how to protect themselves from COVID-19, whilst trying to minimise the spread of the virus.
Moses Sawasawa / War Child UK / Arete

Our award-winning journalists, photographers and content specialists are eager to help you make a difference. Contact us to find out how we can tailor our expertise to meet your needs.


The Challenges of Storytelling: Arete Keeps People at the Heart of the Story

In a crisis, the unexpected can happen, as the current war in Ukraine shows only too well: security and political situations can suddenly deteriorate, public health constraints come into play, bureaucratic obstacles are often thrown up by regimes anxious to control access to the region.

Arete is the expert story-telling agency for NGOs, UN bodies and foundations. But, however much we pride ourselves on our track record of going into the most difficult situations – coming out with the stories that really shed light on what is going on, telling those stories with knowledge, courage and integrity – even the most carefully laid plans may need to change, or even be cancelled altogether.

As a situation evolves, it’s obviously important to react quickly, calmly and decisively. Plans may have to be changed, often at very short notice, inconveniencing or disappointing the interviewees. But it’s also important to work with tact and empathy. At Arete, the professionals we work with have years of experience in the field, and that helps us deal with these changes and how they affect the participants with understanding.

Here, with insights from an Arete journalist, we look at what that experience has taught us, and how we try and stay true to our values in the face of challenges.

Why it’s important to ensure people tell their own stories

People’s own stories have power and weight – they reach out directly to the viewer, the reader, humanising and cutting through the fog and distance created by barrages of statistics. And people who have experienced traumatic events are the best qualified to tell their own stories. Modern technology allows these people the opportunity to tell their stories in ways that could not even have been imagined a few decades ago. Enabling people to tell those stories can empower them – and give them back a sense of their own identity. It also helps get to the heart of a story, cutting through the bias, politicisation and inaccuracy which can come with third party spin.

“It is important for my voice to be heard, because I have been exposed to many challenges as a community leader, which many women are faced within our society. And I believe that my voice can add great impact on this subject since our challenges vary from area to area, and that makes the Foundation [Cherie Blair Foundation for Women] a source of empowerment for the world…”

  • Mercy (pictured below), a beneficiary of The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, which works to eliminate barriers to entrepreneurship for women across the world. Arete has worked with the foundation since 2016.

Mercy

 

It is Arete’s role to act as a mouthpiece – using our network and technical skills to empower people to tell their own stories to the world. We have an obligation to do those stories justice, to bring them to the world. But it is also our responsibility to make sure that we consider the mental and physical health of those who are sharing their stories with us.

Often the people we interview, photograph and film are in chaotic, stressful or fast-moving situations. If circumstances change and it becomes impossible for us to carry out our planned interviews, or it’s no longer a good time for the person to talk to us, then we have to react. It’s important that we do all we can to work with the people whose stories we tell, re-scheduling for a better time, or exercising good judgement on when to disappoint people, by postponing or cancelling interviews.

Practical Considerations

Arete has developed various tactics which make dealing with this sort of situation easier.

At Arete, we mainly use local consultants. This allows us flexibility. We can reschedule visits more easily to a better time; we can easily return, if the initial visit does not go to plan. Using local consultants also generally leads to lower risk when operating in lawless and threatening environments. It also makes communication easier, as Arete’s photographers, journalists and videographers often have common languages and a cultural affinity with potential beneficiaries.

We always try to go and talk to someone in person, but if, for any reason, it becomes impossible to reach people as planned, modern technology has provided various alternatives. Where the interviewee has internet access, for example, we can talk on video, via Whatsapp, Zoom, Facetime etc. It’s not an ideal way to connect with people and it does require adapting the interview style, but it does help people living in areas that have become inaccessible for whatever reason – security, extreme weather etc – to share their stories that otherwise might remain untold.

The Art of Storytelling

Charlotte Eagar is an award-winning filmmaker, Arete journalist, theatre producer and communications consultant. Over a thirty-year career, Charlotte has worked as a foreign correspondent in, amongst other countries, Ukraine, war-torn Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and with North Korean refugees.

Charlotte Eagar at the Holiday Inn in Sarajevo in 1993

Photo: Paul Lowe

 

In 2013, using her experience of working with refugees in various conflict zones, Charlotte co-founded the Trojan Women Project (TWP), at the request of Oxfam to publicise the, then, very under reported Syrian refugee crisis.

TWP is an NGO which gives support and a voice to Syrian refugees through therapeutic drama and advocacy, creating both a process – workshops to help refugees overcome trauma and isolation - and a product – critically acclaimed plays in which the refugees work their stories into the text of Euripides’ great anti-war tragedy, The Trojan Women. TWP makes films of their plays as a multiplier of the project’s reach, as films can be seen anywhere by an infinite number of people, while theatre – while extraordinarily intimate and powerful - is confined to a stage and an auditorium. These films and plays produced by TWP with refugee actors and participants combine being of the highest possible artistic standard with a benefit to the refugee and host community participants. Its productions have received awards and praise from critics and viewers all over the world. TWP’s ability to invoke empathy in their audience is shown by the fact that their plays always have a standing ovation.

Rehearsal with Victoria Beesley at Platform Theatre Glasgow 2019

 

TWP’s projects have toured with the Young Vic, appeared at the Edinburgh Festival, received 5-star reviews and awards and been featured in the global media, from CNN, to Al Jazeera and La Repubblica. The project is studied at various US and UK universities.

Going into difficult situations and empowering people to tell their stores has been a central part of Charlotte’s life:

“Almost everything I have ever written has been around people. When you are working as a foreign correspondent, your job is to cover news, and give the stories behind the news. You hear about events; in order to make these events understandable –  empathetic – to the reader, you have to find the people to whom the event has happened personally. It is all about identification – helping the viewer or reader to empathise with the people at the heart of the story. A million people dead is a statistic, one person dead is a tragedy – you always have to personalise the story.

“Once you have the story, you need to tell it the right way – to do the story justice. In imagery, the person naturally remains at the heart of the story. In print you have to concentrate on an individual to draw the reader in, and not to use sweeping generalisations.

When I was working as a foreign correspondent, I would always initially focus on the individual to catch the readers’ attention, to make them empathise, then broaden the story out with general news coverage and analysis, then bring the story full circle by coming back to the individual once again.”

  • Charlotte Eagar

The Responsibility of a Journalist – “I have a scream I want the world to hear!”

“When someone tells you their story you have a responsibility to treat them with empathy and respect – they are giving you something that is incredibly personal to them.

“It can be quite traumatic for people to tell you these things. If you can - if they want - you should always offer to stay with people a little longer, beyond just getting the story you need.

“Sometimes people are desperate to talk to you. There was a Syrian woman in our first Trojan project in Jordan, a refugee, who said she had been desperate for journalists to come to her suburb of Damascus when she still lived there, so that she could tell them - and the world – what was going on. She said ‘I have a scream I want the world to hear’

“But sometimes, people are more reluctant. That can obviously be quite difficult. As a journalist, you can often feel that it is better for the person and for their cause, in the long term, if they do talk to you; you can reconcile that view with your need to tell their story by encouraging them to share. Once someone starts talking about something traumatic, however, it can sometimes be hard to get them to stop. In that case, you really have to let them talk as much as they want”.

  • Charlotte Eagar

 

Edinburgh Festival Pleasance EICC production of The Trojans 2019 –

Photo: Charlotte Ginsborg

The Trojan Women Project

“In the Trojan Women Project we allow people the time to tell their stories in a safe space - they get weeks if they want to - to share their stories with the group.

“They then go on stage and share their story with the public through the medium of theatre.”

“TWP was born out of a drama therapy project that we did for Arete in Kenya, nine years ago. Not only did we see the psycho-social benefits the project had on the participants, but also, because of the artistic power of the work they and we created, the project’s reach – the reach of the participants’ stories - was much broader than we could have imagined. That was what inspired us to set up TWP.”.

  • Charlotte Eagar

Learn more about TWP on the website: www.trojanwomenproject.org

TWP takes our philosophy at Arete to new heights. Just as the project literally gives people a platform, a stage, to tell their stories to the world, in very different circumstances and for different media, our work at Arete empowers people to narrate their own experiences.

The notebook of “El Informante” (pseudonym), a Venezuelan reporter, in which. he wrote his anonymous story. He wanted to remain anonymous due to the political situation in his country and the persecution he would face. This photograph was taken during a session about mobile story telling in Colombia, March 7, 2020.
Keoma Zec / GSMA / Arete


Our award-winning journalists, photographers and content specialists are eager to help you make a difference. Contact us to find out how we can tailor our expertise to meet your needs.

 

 


Emergency Appeals: Content That Moves to Action

Ghulam Reza Nazari is a 25-year-old Arete Photographer from Afghanistan. Just before Christmas, Ghulam braved an overnight bus journey in a blizzard to get to remote communities in the mountains of Daykundi Province to take photographs for Arete on behalf of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). His mission was to photograph families, men, women and children, who were at risk of starving to death this winter.

Ghulam is just one of the people who play a crucial role in Arete’s mission – to “Tell Stories that Make a Difference.”

At Arete, we are enormously proud of our track record of going into the most difficult situations. Arete has been central in gathering and presenting content for many emergency appeals, (prior to our current work with the DEC in Afghanistan) including work with the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

In a crisis, the first priority is getting vital aid to those who need it, but it’s also critically important to get stories out. It’s those stories – well-told, well-illustrated – that hold people’s attention, engage the global community and move people to action. In the case of emergency appeals, like Afghanistan, engulfed in political turmoil – where DEC estimates a million children are at risk of dying of malnutrition this harsh winter, 8 million people on the edge of famine, and 95% of the population don’t have enough to eat – it is of paramount importance to respond as quickly and effectively as possible, to trigger the necessary response, so that the DEC can raise the money it needs to help the people of Afghanistan survive the winter.

Working with the DEC in Afghanistan is Arete’s most successful emergency appeal to date. So far, the appeal has raised over £30M.

At Arete, we think it is time to share some of the things we’ve learned and observed through the DEC Afghanistan emergency appeal, as well as our other recent emergency appeals.

 

Gaining Access to the Stories that Matter

Depending on the crisis, the obstacles to access differ. If it’s a natural disaster, particularly one affecting remote communities, the main obstacles are likely to be practical and logistical – how quickly can you physically get photographers on the ground in the worst affected areas?

A virtually submerged village in flooded rural Sindh, Pakistan. Arete collaborated with the World Food Programme on an emergency appeal in 2020, when floods devastated the region. Saiyna Bashir / WFP / Arete.

In conflict zones, security risks are obviously the most immediate consideration. Add to that, in Ghulam’s case, appalling weather and mountainous terrain. Additionally, one weapon warring factions often deploy is a bewildering increase in bureaucracy as a way to control access to people and the stories they can tell.

“Documenting things in Afghanistan is even harder today. We try to make it possible, but we must have a letter from the government giving us permission. Without it we will get in a lot of trouble.” – Ghulam Reza Nazari

The NGOs we work with are specialists in getting things done in the most complex situations – and that is Arete’s main advantage. After that, we’ve quickly found that local knowledge is one of our most valuable assets. In Afghanistan, we’ve exclusively used local consultants, like Ghulam Reza Nazari. This not only means Arete’s photographers can quickly gain access to affected areas but they understand the country and its people; as a result, it is much easier for them to communicate with potential beneficiaries. The only way to break through faceless statistics is by telling the stories of individuals, and how they and their families are suffering. It is those stories that move people to action, above anything else.

There is no point, however, in getting physical access to an affected community, if you can’t gain the trust of the people who live there. A photographer like Ghulam can connect with the people, explain to them why he has come, what he is trying to do to help relieve their suffering. That way he can learn and tell their stories in the most compelling way possible.

“People are not happy to have their photos taken, they are angry. They don’t want to be interviewed. But once we explain to them that these photos can help, they are happier to work with us” – Ghulam Reza, Arete Photographer
Nadia nurses her 2-month-old child, while the rest of her family look on, at home in Duykondi Province, Afghanistan. N’Deane Helajzen / Disasters Emergency Committee / Arete.

Using local photographers, incidentally, also builds capacity locally:  it puts money into the local communities, where it is needed, and helps local photographers build their careers, reputations and contacts.

 

Doing Justice to Those Stories

It’s also not enough to gain people’s trust, we have to make sure that we are doing right by those who have let us into their lives to witness to their most vulnerable moments. This takes tact and compassion, as well as technical skill – to take beautiful photographs that tell the story, while treating the subjects sensitively.

Whether it’s through photography, video, or the written word, Arete’s role is not to put a spin on events or individual accounts, but to use our skills to give people a voice that can reverberate around the world. 

“I feel bad seeing my country this way. This is the worst situation I have ever seen in Afghanistan. But I also feel happy with what I am doing, I can share my people’s problems with people who can help. It is the only way I can help, but it makes me happy that I can do this” – Ghulam Reza, Arete Photographer

 

The power of Photography and Video

Photo and video hold the real power, alongside a few well-chosen words. Arete always tries to let people tell their own stories, in their own words as much as possible: it is the best way to do them justice, and to preserve the authenticity that leads to a successful appeal.

Clara walks through standing water to her house while holding her one-year-old son Farnandine in Beira, Mozambique. Arete worked with the Disasters Emergency Committee in Mozambique in 2019 when Cyclone Idai destroyed most parts of Beira City. Karel Prinsloo / DEC / Arete.
Clara: “I woke up and the wind was blowing. I ran outside with my children. I have 5 children. My husband died a long time ago. We sought shelter. How will I live now? I used to sell bananas from a tree of mine. It is all gone. Who will help me now?”

 When you select the content for an appeal, it may not be what you initially expected – but it will almost always have an idiosyncratic quality, with individual details that stick in the mind, in a way that you could never recreate artificially. There’s never any need to sensationalise – the words, the pictures, the people speak for themselves.

The video below shows Istaahil, a woman living in Somaliland, telling her story. After her farm animals were killed by a drought in Somaliland in 2021, Istaahil’s livelihood was destroyed. The World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations collaborated with Arete on an emergency appeal. This video shows how the results of that appeal changed Istaahil’s life – and the lives of her children, forever.

You do need to use editorial skill in placing individual stories within the context of the wider emergency. At Arete, we try to blend contextual information, statistics and individual accounts, to give the appeal an authoritative factual base, alongside its call to human emotions.

 

Framing an Appeal – Showing its Success 

Collecting and presenting high-quality content does not in itself guarantee a successful appeal. Emergency appeals differ from some of our other projects, in that they are short-term drives with very tangible results. The desperate need for intervention is powerfully represented by quantifying the impact of each individual donation. This also serves to emphasise the relatively small contributions needed to have a significant impact. This is a very effective way to move people to action. Content needs to appeal both to the public’s hearts and to their heads. 

 

It’s very important to show the success of emergency appeals – not just the money raised, but where the money has been spent. Chronicling the impact by producing content before, during, and after an appeal, promotes transparency and trust. It also generally leads to future donations and ongoing support.

It’s too soon, as yet, to have the full reporting on DEC’S Afghanistan campaign but other campaigns have proven their success.

DEC’s Cyclone Idai Appeal for Mozambique – which benefited Clara, who tells her story in the above photograph and quotation – raised £43 million. Thanks to these donations, DEC’S member charities were able to make sure that 220,700 people received seeds, tools, fertiliser etc. to regrow crops in the first six months to provide food and a livelihood for their families; 57,400 people received food parcels in the first six months after the cyclone, to keep themselves and their families from starvation; 163,000 people were given access to basic health care; 135,800 people were given access to safe drinking water. DEC regards this as a very successful campaign, and it undoubtedly made an enormous difference to the lives of women like Clara. Arete is proud to have played its part.

 


Our award-winning journalists, photographers and content specialists are eager to help you make a difference. Contact us to find out how we can tailor our expertise to meet your needs.


2021 – a Year in Review: Small Changes with Big Impact

“A small change can make a big difference. You are the only one who can make our world a better place to inhabit. So, don’t be afraid to take a stand.”

- Ankita Singhal, Author

After another unpredictable year of negotiating obstacles, facing difficulties and sometimes learning to accept defeats, we highlight some of the little victories we have seen that have had resounding impacts on people’s lives.

Telling these stories highlights the incredible work of the charities and NGOs we work alongside. They are an antidote to the defeatism and apathy that are daily threats in a world where information flows like a relentless tide and the next set-back can often feel like it’s just around the corner.

Every individual life we touch is a success, every life changed for the better is a major achievement. Amongst vast statistics and global issues, it’s important to remember that every sweeping systemic change consists of thousands of smaller stages along the way. We continue to tell these important stories to remind us that everything we can do is worth doing and that small changes can have big impacts—sometimes far beyond our expectations…

Opportunity International – Roots of Change

Lisa Murray / Opportunity International / Arete. Chantal, 51, harvests Cassava Leaves on her farm in Kinshasa’s Kimwenza District.

Chantal is just one of thousands of women who have benefited from Opportunity International’s 3-year Roots of Change project. Roots of Change, which came to its conclusion in 2021, aimed to empower women in rural Ghana and DRC by improving their status in their communities, giving them access to modern farming techniques and resources, helping them to have more control over their assets and strengthening their leadership skills. The project exceeded its targets and trained more than 15,000 women, with over 12,000 opening savings accounts.

Lisa Murray / Opportunity International / Arete. Chantal, 51, harvests Aubergines on her farm in Kinshasa’s Kimwenza District.

“With this project, I’ve been able to pay for the school fees for my firstborn; she’s going on a trip to Cyprus soon to further her studies.”

Foundational skills and equipment have brought these small fruits of labour to Chantal, whose daughters have, in turn, been empowered to build their own skills and travel abroad—spreading the impacts of the project across generations. With access to education assured, the young women can build on their positions in their communities and further equip themselves to be the leaders of tomorrow.

 

FAO Project – Laasqoray

FAOSA / Arete / Isak Amin. Beneficiary Deeqa Osman’s son holds a lamb in Garabis village.
FAOSA / Arete / Isak Amin. Deeqa Osman, 40, mother of 8, in her home in Garabis village

The potentially devastating effects of drought have been softened for Deeqa and her son by integrated cash and precious agricultural training, supplies and activities from The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) who provide emergency support and training programmes for local communities in Somalia effected by drought.

“We thank God for this help as it is the only thing that enables us to buy everything we need… I am telling everyone who is in the programme to benefit from it and not to waste the opportunity. My plans for the future are to develop my farm with the money I receive and to work hard."

- Deeqa Osman

FAOSO / Arete / Isak Amin. Goats stand in a field at a farm near Badhan, Somalia.

These milk storage containers were donated by the FAO. Very small, simple pieces of equipment, that can have a critical impact; allowing communities to store and distribute more goat milk when it is available, keeping thirst at bay through periods of drought.

 

Open Government Partnership

Launched by the UN in 2011, The Open Government Partnership now has a membership of 79 countries and a growing number of local governments, representing more than two billion people, along with thousands of civil society organisations. It promotes accountable, responsive, inclusive governance.

Carina Bruwer / Open Government Partnership / Arete. Zukiswa works on her computer at Rhodes University in South Africa.

At Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa, Zukiswa works on a user-friendly online platform to house national and provincial budgetary information, expenditures, and learning resources for citizens.

Using technology to link governments and their citizens can help build bonds of trust and empower normal people to make informed democratic decisions and perhaps bring about political changes which could have wider national and international ramifications.

“The idea behind this online budget data portal, is that it’s supposed to be really accessible to anyone, even people who aren’t economists or budget analysts. It’s intended to have lots of resources for learning, videos in different languages - 5 different languages. It also allows those who are more budget analysts to be able to access that kind of data and access that information to do their own analysis of public finance information. So it’s a wide range of users that we’ve targeted, but at the centre of it, it’s to make all budgets open and accessible for anyone, anyone at all.”

– Zoliswa Kota, Public Service Accountability Monitor, Makhanda, Eastern Cape

 

Jhpieigo – Malawi

Karel Prinsloo / Jhpiego / Arete. Queen holds her backpack, standing in front of a small group of schoolchildren in Malawi.

Queen receives school supplies from Jhpiego. She dropped out of school due to pregnancy while in Standard 8 / Grade 10 to take care of her child. She lost hope of having a brighter future for herself and child until the DREAMS programme established a Go Girls Club in her community. Queen has now completed the primary and secondary package of DREAMS and is pursuing a career in nursing.

Jhpiego responds to the HIV epidemic with innovative ways of supporting vulnerable populations. Investing in one school bag for someone like Queen can go some way towards making them feel worth investing in, it can help to reignite their hope for a better life—driving them towards fantastic achievements like Queen’s. By following a path of education, self-improvement and career, Queen provides a role model for others in similar situations. Promoting education has a key role to play in increasing the uptake and availability of preventative tools and treatments and ensuring the cultural/social changes needed to tackle the epidemic long-term.

 

EM2030

Clair Macdougall / EM2030 / Arete. Wendyam gives a presentation on gender sensitivity training.

Equal Measures 2030 is an independent civil society and private sector-led partnership that envisions a world where gender equality is achieved, every girl and woman counts and is counted.

EM2030 have provided opportunities for people like Wendyam Micheline Kaboré, Executive Director of Initiative Pananetugri pour le Bien-être de la Femme, to conduct gender sensitivity training with male NGO heads in Burkina Faso, who will in turn train their staff.

Training the heads of NGOs in gender sensitivity begins a chain of dispersion, whereby gender considerations begin to drip down and eventually touch all parts of society.

EM2030 are mapping and compiling data relevant to the education of girls and women in the unstable context of Burkina Faso – where violence has disproportionately affected women and education for women has come under attack. With data outputs they are undertaking advocacy with key stakeholders on the critical role of data driven advocacy in driving change on girls’ education.

In partnership with EM2030, Initiative Pananetugri pour la Bien-être de la Femme (IPBF) (the Pananetugri Initiative for the Well-being of Women) focuses on developing female leadership and empowerment, especially among young women and girls.

 

YBI

Oktavia Ika Rahman, a 27 year old female entrepreneur, poses for a photo next to her business's poster at her home in North Jakarta, Indonesia.

Oktavia is a 27-year-old entrepreneur who sells homemade food from her home in Jakarta. She is just one of the hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries of the Youth Business International COVID Rapid Response and Recovery programme, funded by Google, which is supporting over 200,000 businesses in 32 countries. Thanks to YBI, Oktavita has been able to start selling food online. That way, she was able to work and take care of her children.

Arete / Yunaidi Joepoet / Youth Business International. Oktavia takes photos of her homemade food.

By providing the relatively small tools required to facilitate the transition of small businesses like Oktavia’s to the online space, the project softens the blow of the pandemic on the wider economy, also future proofing businesses for the post COVID world, accelerating their modernisation and making them more competitive.

 

UNICEF – Somalia

UNICEF / Arete / Ismail Taxta. 9-year-old Hani holds up a learning aid in a classroom in Somalia.

Hani is one of the beneficiaries of a recent project by UNICEF and WFP, investing in the improvement of school facilities and the provision of school meals in the Banadir region. This project has been supported by a generous contribution from the German government, which has enabled UNICEF and WFP to provide safer, healthier schooling environments, more conducive to learning.

A healthy contribution from the German government makes a big difference and it’s important to remember the small instances where it is spent.

The ingredients for a safe, effective classroom environment are taken for granted by so many children around the world. They are incredibly simple, but equally, they are of vital importance. Access to simple resources can ensure education for the next generation in Somalia, and the students of today will grow up to be the decision-makers of tomorrow – equipping and empowering them could be the key to a hopeful future in the region.

 

Costa Foundation – Zambia

Arete / Karel Prinsloo / Costa Foundation. Eunice Chowa (18) in the dormitory at the Peas Kabuta Secondary School supported by the Costa foundation in Kabuta.

“My favourite teacher is Madame Musonda because she always encourages me to work hard so that I can achieve my goals. She teaches civic education. I also do computer training here, we all learn how to type… My dream for the future is to become an accountant, I want a nice house, and also to be a peace maker. I feel bad when I find people quarrelling about different things.”

- Eunice Chowa, Student at Peas Kabuta Secondary School, 18

The Costa foundation supports schools in coffee-growing communities in remote areas of Zambia—providing inclusive, accessible, quality education.

Arete / Karel Prinsloo / Costa Foundation. Pupils attend an ICT class at the Peas Kampinda Secondary School supported by the Costa Foundation in Kasama.

Computers hold boundless potential for students in the most remote places in the world, narrowing the obstacles of long-distance and national borders to open up a world of possibilities. Every computer can ignite an interest that could lead to a lifetime of success.

 

UWS Cambodia

WFP / Arete / Cesar Lopez. Chea, 10, goes to school near his home in Kompong Songkae village, Preah Vhear Province, Cambodia.

Most rural, ethnic-minority communities in Cambodia do not have access to the national education system as the national curriculum does not cater for minority languages. United World Schools works with local communities to provide access to an inclusive, accessible, quality education in children’s mother tongues.

The project begins to close the gap between minorities in isolated rural populations in Cambodia and those in urban areas. In the long term, it could contribute to altering the balance of society towards a system where a high-quality education isn’t reserved for people from certain places speaking certain languages.

 


For charities and NGOs, currently facing so many obstacles to their daily work, telling the stories of the little changes that make big differences to people’s lives has never been so important.

Our award-winning journalists, photographers and content specialists are eager to help you make a difference. Contact us to find out how we can tailor our expertise to meet your needs.


World AIDS DAY 2021: History by the headlines

World Aids Day was first observed on December 1, 1988.

The intention was to bring greater awareness to HIV – the virus behind AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)  and honour all those affected by the killer disease.

This annual event has now become the longest-running disease awareness initiative in the history of public health.

Over its 34-year life span representations of HIV/AIDS and those suffering from it have morphed almost unrecognisably.

Since it first emerged, AIDs has been controversial – surrounded by scientific inaccuracy, social stigma and moral panic. This article tracks changes in public discourse in the west through a sample of headlines in the mainstream US and UK media from 1981 – when AIDS first appeared in US news reports – to the frenetic alarmism of the British tabloids in the mid-80s – to the emergence of some positive representation in the 90’s – through to the more global, factual, solutions journalism witnessed in the new millennium.

Photo: Kate Holt/ Jphiego/ Guardian/ Arete. Matwsie Serati who is HIV positive and taking ARV's sits on her bed looking through photographs of her brothers and sisters who have died in Maseuru, Lesotho. Matwsie had five brothers and sisters who have died, three from TB and one from confirmed HIV who left four children behind. Lesotho has the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the world with twenty six percent of adults being HIV positive and nearly 5000 people dying last year from AIDs. Poverty, lack of education and alcohol abuse are contributing factors. Jhpiego is supporting many initiatives to combat this including project to encourage people to use PrEP.

This account highlights the progress made through the years while facing up to shameful misinformation and prejudice spread by the media. If we are to address the present and future of the global AIDS situation, we need to understand the nature of the narrative that has gone before.

As early as 1983 – even while the virus was far from understood - it was clear AIDS was a global issue. Studies had shown that the virus was present in Africa long before its emergence in the West and that it was largely transmitted through heterosexual sex. Despite this, for years narratives became dominated by homophobia, victim-blaming and racism.

There have been myths about its origins in bestiality, misinformation about transmission, even beliefs that AIDS is somehow God’s punishment for sin, and on top of that flat-out denialism!

Sufferers were turned into modern-day lepers.

As we move through this timeline, it is clear to see the progression in how stories around HIV/AIDS are reported.

 

1981

2 Mysterious Diseases Killing Homosexuals

  • The Washington Post

‘It may be that both are piggybacking on the severe breakdown of the immune system in these men... But why only men? Why only homosexuals? And why in healthy men who had no apparent challenges to their immune systems?’

 

1983

 US Gay Blood Plague Kills Three in Britain

  • The Sun

 

April 1984

New U.S Report Names Virus That May Cause AIDS

  • The New York Times

‘…the finding led the American researchers to express the hope that a vaccine would be developed and ready for testing 'in about two years.’

 

October 1984

AIDS Studies Hint Saliva May Transmit Infection

  • The New York Times

‘…researchers said in interviews yesterday that they are convinced the studies raise real public health concerns.’

 

January 1985

Britain Threatened by gay virus plague

  • The Mail on Sunday

 

February 1985

It’s spreading like wildfire.

  • The Sun

 

July 1985

Hudson has AIDS, spokesman says

  • The New York Times

[Actor Rock Hudson becomes first major public figure to announce he has AIDS – he died in October later that year]

 ‘Asked how the actor acquired the disease, which most frequently strikes homosexuals, intravenous drug users and recipients of blood transfusions, Miss. Collart said, ''He doesn't have any idea now how he contracted AIDS. Nobody around him has AIDS.''’

 

1986

“I’d shoot my son if he had AIDS”, says Vicar

- The Sun

‘…to make his point, the Rev Robert Simpson climbed a hill behind his church and aimed a shotgun at his 18-year-old son Chris.’

 

1987

Don’t Die of Ignorance

[UK AIDS Awareness Campaign featuring actor John Hurt airs in cinemas and on television]

While still alarmist, this campaign is said to have been a turning point in acknowledging the fact that “anyone can get it”, rather than blaming the homosexual population.

 

1988

[1st World AIDS Day to bring awareness to HIV, as well as to commemorate those affected by the disease]


1989

Diana opens Landmark Aids Centre

  • BBC

‘The Princess of Wales has opened a new Aids centre in south-east London.

She gave director Jonathan Grimshaw - diagnosed HIV positive five years ago - a firm handshake before going inside the Landmark Centre in Tulse Hill for a private tour.

This was the first attempt to de-stigmatise the condition by a high-profile member of the Royal Family’

 

1990

Ryan White dies of AIDS at 18; his struggle helped pierce myths

  • The New York Times

 ‘Ryan, a haemophiliac who contracted the virus through a blood transfusion, died of complications of AIDS… publicity helped pierce myths about AIDS, helping health experts and educators emphasise that it is not transmitted by casual contact, that it affects people from many walks of life and that although always fatal, the infection leaves many people able to continue normal lives for years.

Ryan White became a household name in 1985, when as a 14-year-old he began his successful fight to attend the public school in Kokomo that had banned him amid a clamor of fearful students and their parents.’

 

1991

Basketball; Magic Johnson Ends His Career, Saying He Has AIDS Infection

  • The New York Times

‘Magic Johnson, one of the most popular and accomplished players in basketball history, said today that he had been infected by the virus that causes AIDS and that he would retire immediately from the Los Angeles Lakers…’

[Johnson made his announcement live on CNN, and specifically said he did not have AIDS, but had contracted the HIV virus – despite this the press still widely reported the former to be true. Notwithstanding, HIV now had a high-profile heterosexual African American spokesperson who would prove to do positive work to change perceptions about the virus. Two weeks later Freddie Mercury announced he had contracted the virus and the next day became the first high profile British figure to die from AIDS related illness]

 

1993

Healthy, Gay, Guilt-Stricken: AIDS’ Toll on the Virus-Free

  • The New York Times 

‘At age 40, Jaffe Cohen says he feels "older than everybody else." After stalking his circle of friends for more than a decade, AIDS has snatched and killed dozens of his contemporaries and left him with such a backlog of grief that sometimes when he is listening to music or relaxing under a hot shower he startles himself by letting out a sob.’

 

1996

[The Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) was established to advocate for global action on the epidemic and coordinate the response to HIV and AIDS across the UN]

February 12, 1996 cover of Time

Cover: WALTER IOOSS JR.

 

1998

Clinton Declares Crisis Among Minorities

  • USA Today

‘SWAT teams of public health experts, AIDS specialists, epidemiologists and other federal health officials will design and implement education, outreach and treatment programs in minority communities with a high incidence of HIV or AIDS. One third of the funding will go toward substance abuse programs and protease inhibitors while the remainder will go to developing new strategies for preventing the spread of AIDS.’

 

2001

Drugs firms withdraw from Aids case

  • BBC

‘The world's biggest pharmaceutical companies have backed out of a landmark court battle over cheap, non-branded anti-Aids drugs.

The 39 firms had brought legal action to fight legislation which would allow generic versions of their patented drugs being made in or imported to South Africa… However, the South African Government argued that it desperately needed cheap medication to help the 4.7 million South Africans infected with HIV or Aids.’

2003

Flirting with Death: the UK’s First AIDS ‘Cluster’

  • The Independent

‘After 20 years of public-health campaigns about Aids, it seems that complacency is setting in. And nowhere more so than among heterosexuals, many of whom still believe that Aids is something that should concern gays, drug-users and Africans, but not them. They are wrong. In 1999, heterosexually acquired, new cases of HIV overtook homosexually acquired infection for the first time in the UK.’

 

June 2004

Bush Backs Condom Use to Prevent Spread of AIDS

-      The New York Times

‘President Bush said on Wednesday for the first time that the United States should ''learn from the experience'' of countries like Uganda in fighting AIDS and embraced the use of condoms to prevent its spread, a sensitive issue among conservative groups that have fought the adoption of any strategy that does not focus on abstinence.’

September 2004

Europe Unites for New Aids Battle

  • BBC

‘The conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, heard calls for European leaders to do more to fight Aids, described by one as "the silent plague of our times".’

 

2006  

'Out of Control: AIDS in Black America'

– abc news.

‘As the world marked the 25th anniversary of the first reported cases of AIDS this summer, one important story was mostly ignored: AIDS is an epidemic in the African American community and it's spreading fast.’

 

2007

Circumcision cuts by half the risk of Aids

  • The Times

‘Circumcising adult men may cut by half their risk of getting the HIV-Aids virus through heterosexual intercourse, the US Government announced yesterday as it concluded two studies in Africa testing the link.’

 

2008

Britons may be more vulnerable to Aids due to Roman invasion

-      The Telegraph

‘Researchers found that people who live in lands conquered by the Roman army have less protection against HIV than those in countries they never reached

They say a gene which helps make people less susceptible to HIV occurs in greater frequency in areas of Europe that the Roman Empire did not stretch to.’

 

September 2009

AIDS vaccine “important step” against disease

– Reuters

‘An experimental AIDS vaccine made from two failed products has protected people for the first time, reducing the rate of infection by about 30 percent, researchers said on Thursday.’

 

December 2009

Killer Syndrome: The Aids Denialists

– The Independent

‘In the first week of November, a record number of Aids denialists from 28 countries, including Britain, attended the Rethinking Aids conference in Oakland, California.’

 

2010

Vatican shifts ground on condoms, HIV, conception

  • NBC news

‘In a seismic shift on one of the most profound — and profoundly contentious — Roman Catholic teachings, the Vatican said that condoms are the lesser of two evils when used to curb the spread of AIDS, even if their use prevents a pregnancy.’

 

2011

World Aids Day: Victory is within reach, but cuts could spoil it all

  • The Independent

‘Just as Obama announces 'the beginning of the end' for Aids, funding is being slashed.’

 

2013

End of AIDS a worthy legacy for Obama

  • USA Today 

‘In his State of the Union Address, President Obama stated with confidence that the promise of an AIDS-free generation is within our reach. Scientists and HIV/AIDS experts agree…’

 

July 2014

Aids epidemic under control by 2030 'is possible'

- BBC

‘There is a chance the Aids epidemic can be brought under control by 2030, according to a report by the United Nations Aids agency.’

July 2014

Decriminalise sex work to help control Aids pandemic, scientists demand

-      The Guardian

Photo: Kate Holt/ Jphiego/ Guardian/ Arete. Makananelo Mochasane, who is a sex worker, walks along the side of the road at night to get customers in Maseuru Lesotho. Makananelo is HIV positive and taking ARV's. Lesotho has the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the world with twenty six percent of adults being HIV positive. Jhpiego is supporting many initiatives to combat this including a project to encourage people to use PrEP.

2016

Gay or Bisexual Black Men Have 50 Percent Risk of HIV

  • NBC News

‘The average American has just a 1 percent risk of ever being infected with the AIDS virus, but gay and bisexual black men have a 50 percent risk.’

 

2018

HIV hairdresser Daryll Rowe handed life sentence

  • Sky News

‘Daryll Rowe faces life in jail for 'deliberate campaign' to infect men he met on the gay dating app Grindr.’

 

2019

UK ‘on course’ to be HIV-free nation by 2030 – as rates fall to lowest level in two decades

  • The Sun

‘New diagnoses fell by just over a quarter from 6,721 in 2015 to 4,484 last year, Public Health England said.’

2020

In This Pandemic, Personal Echoes of the AIDS Crisis

  • The New York Times

‘Are the parallels in the nature of the viruses, or just an old story about America that had never changed?’

 

2021

Women Living with HIV share their stories

–     Daily Mail

‘Women reveal what it's REALLY like to live with HIV including missing out on having children and hiding it for years due to shame - but say they're 'left out of the narrative' because it's seen as a “gay man's disease”’

 

Unravelling the history of the western media’s complex relationship with AIDS can be disturbing. But this World AIDS Day, UNAIDS is highlighting uncomfortable economic, social, cultural and legal inequalities which must be ended urgently if we are to end HIV transmissions by 2030.

This stark reminder of the social and cultural obstacles activism has already overcome, of the inequalities that led to the marginalisation of people affected by the virus, and clear evidence of how changed perceptions changed headlines offers hope. IF we keep telling stories in a thoughtful and positive way, we can effect real change in attitudes toward HIV/AIDS.

Photo: Quinn Mattingly/ Frontline AIDS/ Arete. A close-up shows a thank you note to Doan Thanh Tung (31), Lighthouse Executive Director, adorns a shelf at their clinic in Hanoi, Vietnam. Frontline AIDS, in partnership with the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF), has provided emergency COVID-19 grants to community-based organisations such as Lighthouse, a Vietnam-based community organisation that helps individuals most affected by HIV.

This article may have illustrated some progress around reporting and understanding of HIV/AIDS in some parts of the world. However, there is still some way to go in many other areas around the globe.

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