Sebastian Rich has been a photographer and cameraman in hard news, documentary and current affairs for over thirty years. Working in war and conflict zones, he works alongside UNICEF, UNHCR and Save the Children.
On a recent trip to Iraq, Sebastian met six-year-old Aya (Arabic for ‘miracle’) and her mother inside UNHCR Domiz refugee Camp in Kurdistan.
Aya was badly burned whilst in the kitchen with her mother and younger sister, helping to prepare an evening meal for the family. Due to the war in Syria, her family could not afford a gas cylinder for cooking.
Instead, the family used the only fuel available – highly volatile kerosene in jars. A kerosene jar had exploded, setting Aye alight.
“She suffered the most terrible and excruciatingly painful burns to her face, stomach, and hands,” says Sebastian. “Like all the pictures I take in a war or conflict zone, I felt a great sadness and despair of humanity.”
Aya and her family travelled from Syria to the Turkish border, where Turkish doctors carried out five life-saving surgical procedures. Returning to their village in Syria was not an option for the family as the war had escalated, so instead, the family fled to the UNHCR Domiz refugee Camp in Kurdistan, Iraq.
“She was one of many children that I photographed in that Syrian refugee camp that day,” explains Sebastian. “She stands out of course because her scars are on the outside – many of the children I photographed and interviewed were scarred so badly on the inside.”
Aya faces daily isolation – refusing to leave her tent due to the shunning from other children in the camp. Medical treatment is also scarce for Aya. Doctors have advised that if she does not receive surgery soon she will become blind.
Sebastian hopes that the power of his photography will help bring justice to those affected by the war. “To me, it brings the horror of war to the fore and maybe, just maybe, in my naivety, a politician will see this image and try and do something positive to bring an end to this disgusting war. But I can always dream.”
Not only has Sebastian met the little girl from the Syrian refugee camp, he has also met survivors of napalm, phosphorous and fuel explosions and missile strikes in high-risk zones. “I want people to be moved to do something,” says Sebastian. “I quickly take the image, then help as much as I can – if I can. Sometimes it’s too late.”
Visit http://www.sebastianrichphotography.com for more information.