Developing pictures 2016: my pick of some great ‘international development’ photos this year

From the end of Ebola at the start of the year, to the fall of Aleppo at the end of it, here’s my alternative pick of some of the most striking and (mostly) positive international development photos of 2016.

Liberia: the end of Ebola

LIBERIA 2016A young girl has her temperature taken in the triage screening area in the Trinity Health Centre in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo credit: Kate Holt for Jhpiego/MCSP. Sat. Jan. 9th, 2016.

On 14 January 2016, the World Health Organisation declared Liberia free of Ebola, marking an end to the world’s worst outbreak of the disease, which killed over 11,300 people in West Africa alone and with cases reaching around the globe to the US and Europe. Photojournalist Kate Holt visited Liberia for USAID’s Maternal & Child Survival Programme just a week before the Ebola outbreak was declared over. View more of her images here.

Syria: Getting kids back into school

Sarah from Syria, learning again in Lebanon

Syrian children in school in Lebanon. 360° photo by Adam Paterson/Panos for DFID.

On 4 February, the UK co-hosted the Supporting Syria & the Region conference in London, together with the UN, Germany, Kuwait and Norway. The event was aimed at raising substantial multi-year funding to help Syrians affected by the ongoing conflict, and the governments of Syria’s neighbouring countries who are hosting the majority of Syrian refugees.

As well as raising a record-breaking $12 billion in pledged funds, one of the conference commitments was to get all children who are currently out of school as a result of the crisis back into education by the end of the 2016/17 academic year.

At DFID  we partnered with Google and commissioned the photojournalist Adam Paterson to document work that was helping Syrian children in Lebanon, resulting in an amazing 360° film and Google Expedition. You can see the film here:

Warriors against FGM in Kenya

Warriors against FGMJosephat, a 25-year-old “moran” — a young male warrior — from Samburu, northern Kenya. Picture: Jessica Lea/DFID

This powerful portrait was one of a number taken by one of my DFID colleagues in Kenya early this year.

As well as traditional forms of protection — for example from tribal clashes and raids — Josephat is also campaigning to end female genital mutilation (FGM). UK aid supports the Pastoralist Child Foundation (PCF) , a UN programme which aims to end FGM and child marriage in Kenya through community action and education. It’s managed by young, educated women and men and respected Samburu warriors like Josephat.

Empowering women in Bangladesh

Cool for schoolShirina Akter with refrigeration machinery she teaches with in her classroom at UCEP school, Dhaka, Bangladesh, March 2016. Picture: Marisol Grandon/DFID

Another beautiful portrait by another colleague. For many girls growing up in Bangladesh, child, early and forced marriage are commonplace. This means many millions of girls lose out on an education. Shirina teaches hands on training in refrigeration and air conditioning systems, as part of an internationally supported development programme in Bangladesh. The programme’s purpose is to provide urban, poor, working children and youth – especially girls and women – with basic education, vocational skills training and the chance to gain employment in market led technical areas.


bread-seller-photobomb-modeling-contract-olajumoke-orisaguna-22Olajumoke Orisaguna, 27, was working as a breadseller in Lagos, Nigeria, when she unintentionally walked through a photoshoot featuring Tinie Tempah. Picture: Ty Bello.

Photographer Ty Bello didn’t think much of this image at the time, but when she was going through and editing the photos later she noticed that she’d accidentally taken a picture that was actually pretty interesting.

Bello set out to track down Olajumoke, writing on her Instagram: “Every one has been asking if this lady is a model… It was just perfect coincidence…”

A few weeks later Olajumoke had been offered a modelling contract and appeared on the front cover of Nigeria’s This Day Style magazine, potentially transforming her life and that of her family.

South Sudan

Since fighting broke out in parts of south Sudan in 2013, over two million people have been forced from their homes. The brutal conflict has claimed many lives, and produced many horrific images. But in many areas that are peaceful, people face other challenges because they are still trying to rebuild their lives following the war for independence that lasted between 1983 and 2005.

Around five million people in South Sudan– nearly half of the population — are at risk of food shortages and hunger over the coming months. The ongoing conflict, combined with erratic rainfall, a collapsing economy and high food prices is making life incredibly difficult for many people.

This story by WFP’s Alexandra Murdoch was an opportunity to see a different, more optimistic view of South Sudan, as a counterpoint to the ongoing conflict.


House destroyed by a flash flood in Malka-afweyn, Somali region, Ethiopia, 2016

A house destroyed by a flash flood in Malka-afweyn, Somali region, Ethiopia, April 2016. Picture: Seifu Assegid/Save the Children

The Somali region of Ethiopia experienced multiple hazards due to the 2015-2016 El Nino weather event. Droughts and floods have taken a high toll on the population of the region and caused heavy human suffering.

People were already vulnerable to other disasters and stresses; food insecurity, lack of adequate shelter and clean drinking water. These underlying problems were further exacerbated as the coping mechanisms of the affected population have been exhausted by the recurrent droughts, making them acutely vulnerable to flooding and other natural hazards.

This image stood out as one of many that were illustrative of the effects of El-Nino that were observed across Africa this year.

Ghana: Everyday Africa


Photo by Nana Kofi Acquah (@africashowboy): A guy holds a diffuser over model Nancy Everett as she poses for a photo in the midday sun in Accra, Ghana.

There are so many wonderful images from the Everyday Africa project that it is really difficult to choose just one. But many of them are taken by Nana Koif Acquah, so I really had to pick one of his. Everyday Africa ran a Kickstarter appeal this year, and successfully raised enough money to turn the project into a book which will be published early in 2017.

Haiti: Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew Jeremie Les CayesJeremie, Haiti, Thursday October 6, 2016. The city lies on the western tip of Haiti and suffered the full force of the category 4 storm, leaving tens of thousands stranded. Picture: Logan Abassi / UN / MINUSTAH

Hurricane Matthew passed over Haiti on Tuesday October 4, 2016, with heavy rains and winds. While the capital Port au Prince was mostly spared from the full strength of the class 4 hurricane, the western cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie received the full force sustaining wind and water damage across wide areas.

The utter destruction wrought by the hurricane was both hard to bear and hard to visualise, but something about the defiance of the solitary, battered palm tree and the stormy skies above in this image seemed to encapsulate the story of another challenging chapter in Haiti’s history.

Iraq: the battle for Mosul

A man stands amidst relief kits being distributed by IOM for people displaced from Mosul, IraqA man stands amidst relief kits being distributed by IOM for people displaced from Mosul, Iraq. Picture: International Organisation for Migration.

In October, Iraqi government forces launched military operations to re-take the city of Mosul from Daesh. Humanitarian agencies had spent much of 2016 preparing for this operation, which it was feared may cause additional civilian suffering and widespread displacement of up to 1.5 million people.

There have been many dramatic news images of the ongoing battle for Mosul, and of the resulting displacement of some 100,000 people so far – but few that demonstrated the preparedness that has taken place. The dark, smoke-filled skies in the background of this image do however speak to many of the more dramatic news images – a result of oil-fields and wells set on fire by retreating Daesh fighters.

Syria: the fall of Aleppo but maybe the end of the fighting?

01 Syrians evacuated from eastern Aleppo reach out for Russian food aidSyrians evacuated from eastern Aleppo reach out for Russian food aid in government controlled Jibreen area in Aleppo, Syria, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki.

Finally, what we can only hope is one of the last of these kind of images from Syria. At the time of writing, a fragile, nationwide cease-fire has been agreed, and new peace-talks are meant to be happening soon. I truly hope that we can see and share some images of peace and reconciliation in Syria in 2017.


About russellphoto

Photographer and multimedia producer/editor working in international development. Also on Twitter @russellphoto
This entry was posted in development, humanitarian emergencies, international development, photography, photojournalism, representation, social media. Bookmark the permalink.

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