Iconic Photos

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Food Theft

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In 1998, yielding to the international pressure, the Sudanese government allowed good aid to be distributed to the south. British photojournalist Tom Stoddart travelled with Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to a camp in Ajiep, where more than 100 people were dying every day. There he took the above photo of a crippled boy who had queued hours for food, only to find it robbed away from him by a fit man who strides confidently away.

Stoddart received overwhelming criticism for his image, people demanding why he did not intervene. He responded, “I am a photographer, not a policeman or an aid worker. All I can do is try to tell the truth as I see it with my camera.” However, Stoddart requested that the papers that print his Sudan photos run the credit card hotlines of aid agencies next to the photos. On the day the above photo appeared in the Guardian, MSF had 700 calls and £40,000 was pledged. The Daily Express raised £500,000. Le Figaro ran 10 pages of his pictures, Stern magazine nine pages.

On a deeper level, the photo is a symbol of Africa’s continuing problem — the big man with the stick rules. Large amount of food aid disappears from the camps in much needed areas and appears for sale in the market places in neighboring countries. Not to be anecdotal but I once volunteered in an African country that should remain nameless. Food and medical aid that Western governments sent there were regularly pilfered by corrupt bureaucrats and sometimes aid is withheld or rediverted to areas that don’t need them because the governments there like to use foreign aid as a bargaining chip to subdue/cleanse tribes and ethnicities they don’t like. Yet, Western governments and aid agencies continue sending aid because sometimes getting a little aid to affected areas is better than cutting off aid.

I put some links to donation webpages of some international organization helping aid efforts in Africa. Just click on their logos:

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

June 15, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Posted in Society, War

Tagged with , ,

14 Responses

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  1. Maybe the problem is not just “the man with the big stick”.
    I think it’s also the way the rest of the world treats Africa’s countries. From the optics of the new-colonialists, this people will always depend on foreign aid (since they are a savages that cant relate kindly to each other) while profiteering from weapon sales to the very same people.
    Isn’t it an ethic problem? Aren’t the developed countries’ war markets pressure on these people to blame for this situation?
    Maybe in a not so distant time, if we want these situations to resolve, we’ll have to pay higher (farer) prices for our cellphones’ prime materials, or for our SUV’s oil. Maybe our retirement will be more modest because that attractive investment fund is somehow financing that big stick.

    I’m big fan of the blog even sometimes disagreeing of those who write it. Keep it up!

    gervas

    June 16, 2010 at 3:08 pm

  2. That’s one of the more disturbing pictures that I’ve seen (possibly because I have children with disabilities). I can’t imagine being there to take the picture and not helping the child, but I can appreciate why photojournalists need to try to maintain their distance. It is important to get these stories out, and at times photojournalists can do that more effectively than print journalists (thinking of the photos of the dead soldiers dragged through the streets in Somalia, which, whether you agree with the end result or not, were highly effective in raising awareness of what was going on).

    It’s not an easy question, and one that I’m glad that I don’t have to face it.

    Jen

    June 23, 2010 at 2:09 pm

  3. Dupont family mansion.. http://www.flickr.com/photos/familymanstudios/3004347762/ compare and contrast.. disgusting wealth with dire poverty.

    Dawn

    August 30, 2010 at 10:01 pm

  4. [...] fue acusado de pasividad, recordando tristemente la historia de otra trágica fotografía. Fuente, [...]

  5. [...] fue acusado de pasividad, recordando tristemente la historia de otra trágica fotografía. Fuente, [...]

  6. It’s a fascinating image that raises all kinds of questions. For all we know the man with the stick had a son or daughter or wife or brother at home who was even worse off than this kid, who is at least healthy enough to make his way to the aid station; and of course the man might be an awful bastard.

    Clearly the problem isn’t that there’s no aid, it’s that the process of distributing the aid isn’t being supervised properly. I surmise that if the area was flooded with food no-one would need to grab it and run, because there would be more than enough for everybody, but some people would be bound to steal it so that they could sell it elsewhere, and some people would be bound to steal it so that they could create a shortage and have power over the people without food. In such an environment food is money, and money is power. In Britain we have more food than we need, people pay money to get rid of it.

    A hundred years from now it’ll all have sorted itself out.

    Ashley Pomeroy

    October 25, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    • yes and what kind of man with a son/daughter/wife/brother would let said loved one starve till they’re skin and bone while they remain fed? Yes, appearances can be deceiving, but you appear to be extremely naive;

      ‘a hundred years from now it’ll all have sorted itself out’

      yeah, like in the last hundred years it’s sorted itself out, there’s just as much war, conflict, starvation and rich/poor divide as there was then. Perhaps not in the west, though, but like i said, appearances can be deceiving, we don’t see in the west what people are having to go through to subsidise our lifestyles.

      Sundal

      October 26, 2010 at 9:45 pm

  7. [...] fue acusado de pasividad, recordando tristemente la historia de otra trágica fotografía. Fuente, [...]

  8. [...] After initial setbacks, Nigerian Army blockaded Biafra, cutting off food supplies. Western food aid was refused by the Biafra government, paranoid that it would have been poisoned, and the route for food aid would have opened a gap in the Biafran defence. What happened over the next three years was tragic, because it was all too preventable. It took a long time for the West to see pictures of Biafra; during the first six months of the fighting, few photographers managed to penetrate anywhere near the front lines. Yet, slowly reporters and photographers arrived, making Biafra the world’s first media famine. But the world could only sit and wait as more than one million people perished, mostly from starvation. With the pictures such as that of a hauntingly emaciated albino boy, Don McCullin introduced the world to the sight of children with stick-thin limbs and grotesquely distended stomachs, characteristic of protein deficiency — images which are to become all too tragically familiar in subsequent decades as famines happened in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Uganda, and the Sudan. [...]

    Biafra « Iconic Photos

    December 3, 2010 at 5:08 am

  9. this is the worst picture i have ever seen,,,, the problem not only with the man with the big stick,the problem with the society, the problem with developed countries,,,,,, They will always try to dominate with other developed countries and developing countries…. they will never look this countries,,, who really struggling for food and water……

    With this comments we can’t change the world…. people please try to help the other peoples who really struggling for food and water……. as much as you can plz:(:(:(

    kiran

    December 26, 2010 at 9:46 am

  10. [...] fue acusado de pasividad, recordando tristemente la historia de otra trágica fotografía. Fuente, [...]

  11. […] In 1998, yielding to the international pressure, the Sudanese government allowed good aid to be distributed to the south. British photojournalist Tom Stoddart travelled with Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to a camp in Ajiep, where more than 100 people were dying every day. There he took the above photo of a crippled boy who had queued hours for food, only to find it robbed away from him by a fit man who strides confidently away. Source. […]

  12. this is what socialism looks like !

    Ionel

    September 11, 2014 at 2:06 pm


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