Vietnam: The legacy of warThe Vietnam War ended in 1975. The USA withdrew their troops and North and South Vietnam were reunited. After 35 years, the world no longer pays attention to the drama. But for the Vietnamese people the legacy of American warfare continues. It was a cruel and brutal war that was also extremely damaging to the environment. US forces used the herbicide Agent Orange to destroy foliage that the North Vietnamese were using as cover. Agent Orange contains dioxins that are known to cause cancer and damage genes. The effects of the toxic substance can be seen among Vietnamese people to this day: cancer, immune disorders and severe deformities. According to official estimates, there are 1.2 million disabled children in Vietnam. In rural areas, the percentage of disabled children is significantly higher than in urban areas. The face of 9-year-old Nguyen Thi Ly is a sad example of this toxic legacy.
Nguyen Thi Ly and all the other affected children photographed by Ed Kashi live in Da Nang.. He particularly cares for the little ‘war veterans’. Da Nang was an American base of operations where tons of Agent Orange were stored for defoliation missions. 56,000 of the city’s 800,000 inhabitants suffer from disabilities caused by this chemical warfare. Today, scientific research on the ecological, social and health effects of Agent Orange is being carried out in Da Nang, funded by the US government and aid organizations.
UNICEF supports Vietnam’s disabled children, mostly through donations from US aid programs, to live as normal a life as possible and to be protected from discrimination. With his photos, he wants to show that war affects the following generations as well – and that there is no end in sight. UNICEF supports aid programs for Vietnam’s disabled children, mostly through donations from the US, so that these children can live as normal a life as possible and are protected from discrimination.
In his photo series, American photographer Ed Kashi shows the everyday life of two families who receive help from the organization “Children of Vietnam”. “I deeply believe in the power of still images to change people’s minds”, Kashi describes his work. Kashi especially cares for the little ‘war veterans’. With his photos, he wants to show that war causes endless suffering – not just for one generation.
Afghanistan: The devastating consequences of civil warsAfghanistan’s past: Soviet invasion in 1978, outbreak of the civil war. Consequence: refugees. Withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, mujahideen take Kabul. Outbreak of yet another civil war. Consequence: refugees. Overthrow of the Taliban regime after 9/11 by an alliance lead by the US. Bloody internal struggles. Consequence: refugees. Afghanistan’s future: despite uncertain circumstances, approx. 4 million refugees have returned from Pakistan and Iran and now are trying to settle down again in their home country.
Among these refugees was the family of 8-year-old Akram. They looked for shelter in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. Even as a small boy, Akram tried to make some money by collecting scrap on a garbage dump in Peshawar. While rummaging through the garbage, he once accidentally touched a non-insulated cable. Both his hands and arms had to be amputated because of severe burns. In the meantime, Akram’s family has returned to Kabul where he received arm prostheses thanks to the help of the International Red Cross. Looking at the pictures taken by Iranian photographer Majid Saeedi, we are astonished by the natural way the children treat each other and their compassion for each other. Majid Saeedi has also captured the playful ease shown by healthy children when handling these ‘spare body parts’. The horrible realization of being severely disabled for one’s whole life, however, only sets in when people get older. And this realization is cruel because it’s final.
Bangladesh: The oldest profession in the world destroys the lives of young girlsThere is no exact data on the number of child prostitutes worldwide. According to cautious estimates by UNICEF, approx. 1.8 million children and adolescents worldwide are abused through prostitution.
Bangladesh-based photographer, G.M.B. Akash, shows the plight of these child prostitutes, some of whom are extremely young. He grew ever more horrified at the hopeless situation of these young girls in the brothels of the Faridpur region when he heard what they had to do to their bodies to appear older and more attractive. Every day over many years they take a steroid to ‘plump up’. It is the same drug that is also used in countries like Bangladesh to fatten cattle. It was originally intended for use by seriously ill patients suffering from arthritis, asthma or allergies.
The drug called Oradexon is cheap and easily available. It causes water to be deposited in the body tissue and makes the young girls’ bodies appear bigger and plumper. They have no choice but to accept that the drug seriously damages their health. Akash hopes that his photos will help to better protect children from all kinds of sexual abuse for commercial reasons.
UNICEF’s Guidelines for Child Protection stipulate that victims of sexual abuse – including victims of underage prostitution – must be unidentifiable. For this reason, the faces of underage persons in this report have been made unrecognizable.
20-year-old Yasmin also has a puffy face because of the steroid. She has lived in this brothel since she was a child – just like her mother, who worked here as a prostitute for 30 years.