Photo of the week

In this week’s Photo of the Week, Paulino, 7, and his sister Laura, 14, stand beside their possessions, displayed outside their hut in Zambezia Province, Mozambique. The children have been on their own since the deaths of their parents and siblings several years before this photo was taken, in 2007.

Every time I’ve come across this photograph in our library, it has always made me stop and look just a little harder into the frame. I think about the half dozen cups, a bowl, the mismatched and chipped plates, two water containers, an umbrella, a pillow, a hoe, a few utensils and a notebook, held by Paulino, and then about the things in my own life that I have in abundance, as well as the different trajectory that my life has taken. I have more than I need to sustain me, a husband, two children and a loving extended family and material possessions far beyond what is truly necessary. My husband and I survived devastating diseases when our children were small and we benefited from a healthcare system that enabled us to receive lifesaving treatment. My home is filled with material things I’ve collected over the years, some acquired during a vacation, and others purchased on a whim, just because I could.

When I look at this photograph, I see dignity in the careful placement of the few precious items on their sleeping mats. But I keep going back to the idea that it is not what Paulino and Laura lack in material possessions, but rather, the unseen losses of family members which are revealed so dramatically in their faces.

Susan Markisz is a UNICEF Photographer and Assistant Photography Editor

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  1. Beautiful picture and narrative, yet overwhelmingly sad. It breaks my heart what these children must face just to survive, while also missing the love and guidance of parents. Makes me feel awful about the incredible material waste in my life, and what I define as “necessary” to live. God bless these young people.