x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Pictures of hope for children of world

An exhibition highlighting some of the issues faced by children in conflict regions will be held at the Dubai International Financial Centre on Saturday.

Freshta, 11, in a mixed class just outside Kabul, Afghanistan, in one of the photos from Save the Children’s exhibition.
Freshta, 11, in a mixed class just outside Kabul, Afghanistan, in one of the photos from Save the Children’s exhibition.

DUBAI // A boy balances as he walks along the gun barrel of a blown-up tank, part of the scattered debris of war he and his young friends in southern Iraq have turned into a playground.

The striking image comes from a photographic exhibition called Stories of Hope, which is to be staged in Dubai by Save the Children.

The aim of the show is to raise awareness in the UAE of the issues children face and the ways they can be helped.

The photos were taken by staff of Save the Children - the international NGO that campaigns for children's rights worldwide and helps youngsters in trouble spots and developing countries - in places such as Gaza, Haiti, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bolivia and Nigeria.

They will be on display to the public for the first time when the exhibition opens at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) on Saturday.

Other photos of children in Iraq show them in child-friendly centres set up by the NGO, where they found respite from troubling reminders of war and could relax and play.

Many had lost everything in the conflict and were severely traumatised, and these places provided what the group described as an oasis in an otherwise bleak environment.

"We work with the schools in Iraq," said Soha Ellaithy, the director of Gulf partnerships at Save the Children.

"We set up the spaces in schools. We train either the teachers or community workers to work with the children.

"One little guy used to draw blood and dead bodies and things like that. After a few weeks at the child centre he was drawing trees, the sun and flowers."

Some pictures illustrate the types of aid given to young victims of last year's devastating floods in Pakistan and earthquake in Haiti.

In Pakistan, 740,000 people received assistance in the form of emergency medical care, building materials for shelter, food and other items, while in Haiti 45,000 children were given help to return to school.

"The pictures illustrate what we do during emergencies and give examples of what kinds of issues children face and what kinds of response work," said Ms Ellaithy, from Egypt.

"I'm hoping the exhibition will get people thinking that there is always a way to help kids, not necessarily something complex or that needs a lot of money. Sometimes solutions can be simple but effective.

"And I'd like to get people thinking about the sustainability of charity work. It should aim to help people help themselves, and not just help people period."

She said most people thought child aid organisations dealt primarily with emergencies, but youngsters often faced more complex issues.

"For example, a girl called Ayat was detained by the Israeli army in Gaza when she was 15," Ms Ellaithy said.

"She spent 20 months in jail and when she came out she was very traumatised. She isolated herself, couldn't go out of her home, couldn't talk to people.

"In Gaza we have 20 centres which help traumatised children so she attended one of them and worked with social workers and therapists and so on. Ayat is now working in a photography shop. She discovered that she likes photography and now she's working, she's talking, she's smiling."

Ayat, now 19, told a Save the Children worker: "Flowers, family, friends and buildings - I wanted to capture everything that passed my lens. Pictures are memories that I want to keep alive."

Solutions to other problems can be much more straightforward. One picture shows how children in La Paz, Bolivia, were taught to disinfect bottles of drinking water by simply leaving them in strong sunlight for a while.

This removed the risk of them catching parasitic diseases that affect more than 70 per cent of youngsters in the region.

Other projects featured involve ensuring children have access to education, empowering girls, saving newborns, making sure youngsters are well fed and assisting communities that are affected by HIV.

The exhibition, which will include artwork by some of the children, will continue at the DIFC atrium until October 15.

csimpson@thenational.ae