In 2017, the world faced the worst famine since World War II. It is still ongoing in East Africa and in Yemen with 20 million people affected. When the situation was its worst, one child died every three minutes. This story, undoubtedly one of the most important in our time, has largely been reported with figures piled on each other. But what does a number say about human suffering?
On July 7 of that year, Aftonbladet.se published “What’s on the plate” about what children eat while trying to survive this famine. The report was a result of three months of work and trips to Somalia and South Sudan, two of the world’s most dangerous, hard-to-reach countries, where famine is used as a weapon in civil war.
It would be unfair to say that people die in silence from famine. It’s not like that. It’s just that the world does not listen to their cries for help. Famine goes beyond the usual searchlight of the media, and it lacks the intrinsic drama of war. Famine is slow and still by nature.
We decided to give this crisis some much-deserved media attention by asking one simple question: What’s on the plate? What does a person eat when they have no food?
Our pursuit is always to bring our readers as close as possible to the places we visit. VR technology has become a new tool for us in that work, and this time we would take it one step further.
On the same day we published “What’s on the plate,” an exhibition opened with the same name at the Fotografiska Museet in Stockholm. The exhibition consisted of our text and photographs, as well as a unique 360-degree installation. In a cylinder-shaped room built of hundreds of monitors, our film The Rat Hunter was projected on the walls and took viewers into the world of a boy who hunts rats in his struggle for survival. The immersive experience was powerful and social, as it brought together about 10 to 15 people within the cylinder.
The reportage for “What’s on the plate” has been seen by 391,000 visitors with 600,000 pageviews. Between July 7 and August 13, 2017, the exhibition “What’s on the Plate” was seen by about 1,000 people per day.
In conjunction with our coverage, Save the Children began an international fundraising campaign, which raised SEK2.9 million.
As foreign journalists, we often have the feeling of moving between different realities — one week in the field, next week at the office. We wanted to share the feeling of our viewers while also making a difference in the lives of the people enduring this famine.