South Sudan through the eyes of a photojournalist | Humanitarian Coalition
A young woman at a camp for displaced people outside of Juba, the capital of South Sudan. Photo: Renaud Philippe
South Sudan through the eyes of a photojournalist
“When famine was declared in South Sudan, in February, I had this feeling, this impulse, like I didn’t have the choice to be there. The first time I felt like that was after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. It’s not about just going there, but being there. Photography has this strength; it’s a profoundly human media. It generates reactions, and personally engages those who look at it.”

Quebec photojournalist Renaud Philippe traveled to South Sudan in May 2017 to report on the situation in the war-torn and drought affected country. Thanks to on-the ground support from some of the Humanitarian Coalition’s member agencies, Renaud was able to access some of the most affected areas of the country. His stories and images highlight the characteristic resilience of people who through events outside of their control have been pushed to the brink of famine.

Here’s a glimpse of the images and the experiences he captured.

“When famine was declared in South Sudan, in February, I had this feeling, this impulse, like I didn’t have the choice to be there. The first time I felt like that was after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. It’s not about just going there, but being there. Photography has this strength; it’s a profoundly human media. It generates reactions, and personally engages those who look at it.”

Nyakuig Kuong escaped to Nyal from Leer with her six children, aged 1 to 15 years old.
Nyakuig Kuong escaped to Nyal from Leer with her six children, aged 1 to 15 years old.
Nyariem Both with her son Machar, who was admitted to the Mankien health centre, managed by CARE. Machar is 6 months old and weighs barely 4kg. His mother traveled from Liengiere, 10 km away, for her son could receive care.
Nyariem Both with her son Machar, who was admitted to the Mankien health centre, managed by CARE. Machar is 6 months old and weighs barely 4kg. His mother traveled from Liengiere, 10 km away, for her son could receive care.
A young girl sits on sacks of food, destined for more than 25,000 people in Mankien, a town in Unity State, one of the two states where famine was officially declared in February. On this day, CARE distributed more than 378 tonnes of food provided by the World Food Programme.
A young girl sits on sacks of food, destined for more than 25,000 people in Mankien, a town in Unity State, one of the two states where famine was officially declared in February. On this day, CARE distributed more than 378 tonnes of food provided by the World Food Programme.
With a burlap sac rolled out for a chair, a mother holds her child’s hand as they await their ration of food in Mankien.
With a burlap sac rolled out for a chair, a mother holds her child’s hand as they await their ration of food in Mankien.

“Through my images, I try to highlight the atmosphere, the ambience of the situation. Images can help people who aren’t there understand, in fact live, what those in the image are going through. Photography is such an intimate art, and I let myself be guided by the encounter and the relationship that develops between myself and the subject of the image. Photography doesn’t create the encounter – the encounter creates the image. Everyone has their story to tell, and by listening and by reaching out to them, you receive something that is personal and profound and touching… and real. The needs in South Sudan are glaring. In this case, it seems like the majority of the population is dependent on humanitarian assistance. I think back to Nepal or Haiti, and yes, there were many people who needed help, but here, it’s a whole country. People here don’t have much, and before long, they won’t have anything at all.”

“The feeling of insecurity is everywhere. Women who must leave displacement camps in search of food or fuel live in constant fear. And it will stay that way until there is peace.”

“The first lesson was to understand, not the crisis itself, but the logistical complexities that exist in South Sudan. After my trip, I understand why it’s so complex. I met and talked to other photographers and journalists who were kicked out of the country or weren’t even able to get in. Just getting there was a lot of work. My trip couldn’t have happened without the support of local NGOs. The only way to travel in the country, to bear witness to the situation, is by being with local NGOs and the humanitarian sector.”

“It’s impossible to see these children and not put yourself in their parents’ place. I have two children. It’s hard to imagine what they are going through. Being a parent, it’s a universal language.”

Photos: Renaud Phillippe
June 13, 2017
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