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Eyewitness to Africa's misery and hope

Wednesday, December 05, 2012
By: Ella Fisher

THOMAS MUKOYA'S IMAGES The Dollo Ado group of refugee camps are located in a remote area near the Somali border. Photo: Karleen Minney

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Confronting images of drought, crop failure, riots and famine are not uncommon for Reuters photographer Thomas Mukoya. Covering the east African crisis, the award-winning photojournalist has captured life and the impact of humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia's Dollo Ado refugee camps.

''Last year, I visited one health centre in Dollo Ado that was full of malnourished children. I think I counted over 15 very tiny kids that were crying and being fed by nasogastric tubes through their noses,'' Mukoya said.
His powerful images are featured in a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees exhibition titled The Horn of Africa Crisis: One Year On, documenting the humanitarian crisis.

Mukoya said his best photography resulted from his close proximity to his subjects: ''We took time to visit a family who had lost their 18-month-old daughter. We shared and we mourned with them. We spent the whole day with them and went to the burial. It was so moving because just a few metres from their tent, another elderly lady died from malnutrition.''

As a Reuters photographer, Mukoya has had a close-up view of the Horn of Africa crisis over the past two years from visiting Somalia with Kenyan forces and witnessing the creation of refugee camps. ''Last year, when we were visiting the Dollo Ado camp, there was a lot of people living in the open, even aid workers themselves were camping out in the open, and the transit centre was packed to capacity,'' he said.
But one year on, the thousands of refugees entering Ethiopia through transit centres each day has been reduced to hundreds, and permanent shelters are replacing the tents of Dollo Ado.

''When I visited this year, the health centre that was full of malnourished children was closed because there was no such malnourished cases, he said.

Last year, ACT residents donated more than $200,000 to the Australia for UNHCR's $5 million Horn of Africa Crisis Appeal, which helped provide shelter, safe water, food, education and livelihood programs.
The new exhibition opened on Monday night and gives Canberrans the opportunity to see the impact of their generosity.

The exhibition will run to December 14 in the Theo Notaras Multicultural Centre in Civic Square.


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