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The power of the lens

A photographer and former midwife has made it her mission to improve conditions in which women in Somalia give birth by raising awareness.

The power of the lens

New Zealand photojournalist Nikki Denholm first visited Somalia in 2011, having traded in a career in midwifery for a camera lens 20 years ago.

She has documented the global refugee crisis; child trafficking; children in prisons; and street dwellers in the slums of Manila.

Of all her photographic assignments, Denholm says her trip to Puntland, Somalia was one of her hardest. Medical resources were scarce, international aid was hindered by a combination of piracy and internal insecurity and malnutrition was rampant. A handful of brave doctors struggled to work without running water and medicine.

In Puntland at that time, one in 10 mothers died during pregnancy or childbirth and just 30 doctors cared for the population of 2.5 million. One in four babies were born stillborn or died within a week of birth.

“We were confronted with death daily from children to their mothers to our own bodyguards,” says Denholm. “Images from that trip stay with me to this day.”

Denholm ran a photographic campaign, raising $150,000 to bring medical supplies and training to Puntland’s Bosaso General Hospital.

Working with a surgeon, Denholm sourced medical equipment from India, China and Denmark, importing it in small batches to avoid the rampant piracy on the Somali seaboard.

Recently the final shipment arrived at Bosaso General, equipping a burgeoning medical team.

 

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