Thursday, 28 February 2013

Cambodia: after the floods, a brighter future

Leng Silong, 12, writes equations on the board at a flood affected school
© UNICEF Cambodia/2012/Andy Brown
Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in South East Asia but also has perhaps the richest culture and history. In ancient times it was the seat of the Khmer Empire that stretched across the region and influenced the culture and religion of present day Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. More recently, it suffered the massacres and misrule of the Khmer Rouge, from which it has yet to fully recover.

I visited Cambodia to work with the UNICEF country office on digital communications and train staff in local ‘zone offices’ to write stories about children. I had a punishing schedule, with three provinces to cover in four days and groups of up to 20 people to manage. However, it was a great chance to see the country and meet local communities.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

The dark of day: life in a Jakarta urban slum

In the mornings, Neng helps her mum on the family food stall
© UNICEF/Indonesia 2012/Andy Brown
Neng is fourteen years old. She lives and works on Venus Alley, a lane in the notorious Jembatan Besi slum in Jakarta, Indonesia. Unlike other children her age, she rarely gets to see the sun. The slum is one of the most densely populated in Indonesia, rising to four stories in places. The ground floor homes are reasonably well constructed but as they ascend, they become increasingly makeshift, with walls and floors made from wood and scrap metal.

Sunlight is in short supply throughout the slum, due to the narrow alleys and tall buildings. In the densest areas, people have built across the top of the alleyways, cutting out the sun altogether and plunging the lanes into perpetual night time. Here, the only light comes from neon tubes and bare lights bulbs hanging from wires. The air is stale and the lanes smell of rubbish and sewage.