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Daily Mirror pair recognised for reports on ‘forgotten’ Somalia famine and the death from starvation of baby Hamdi Ahmed

By Zainab Mahmood

Daily Mirror special correspondent Tom Parry has spoken of the personal and professional challenges of reporting from famine-stricken Somalia.

The two front-page articles produced by Parry and photographer Andy Stenning have won the International Press category in the annual Premio Luchetta awards in Trieste, Italy.

When asked how he balanced his emotions with the need to carry out his job as a reporter Parry said: “I think it’s important when you do a job like this not to become completely hardened and emotionally detached, which it would be quite easy to do.

“Nevertheless you have to think professionally, you have to think about what your editor would be looking for in terms of pictures and interviews and you have to balance the two I guess.

“So when we were in the clinics, it’s really horrible to see children in such pain, and right in front of you some of them look like they’re about to die frankly.

“So I think of it as partly I’m there just to observe it so that others who are less likely to travel to Somalia can imagine what it might be like.”

Parry felt it important not just to give readers statistics and said: “You’ve got to accurately reflect what’s going on there and try and take it back to the UK and present it in a way that people can relate to.”

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Parry and photographer Stenning travelled around Somalia with armed escorts and representatives of the charity Save the Children.

The East African nation is ranked 167 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

Parry said: “You’re writing your words to fit around the photograph really and you almost know without thinking about it when the moment has arrived that will become the centre piece of the story.

“I think what’s most important is actually is for people to know that you’re really in a place, so you’ve got to try and come up with specific details that really pin it down at that location.”

Parry’s first article described six-month-old girl Hamdi Ahmed who weighed less than 8lbs, one of 6.2m Somalians in need of aid.

A week later Parry recalled Hamdi’s faint “mournful cry” in the second article published in the Daily Mirror after he was alerted to her death.

He wrote: “Born at the epicentre of the worst Somalian drought since 1950 – it has not rained for three years – Hamdi had been battling starvation since the day she was born.

“In drought-stricken Somalia, Hamdi was the worst of many malnutrition cases I witnessed.”

Parry told Press Gazette: “We’re not aid workers, we are journalists, so all we can do is portray it as best we can, and if you do that, that’s as much as you can achieve really.”

Parry said the articles were published in March shortly before the Disasters Emergency Committee launched an appeal for Somalia. They also highlighted an appeal run by Save the Children.

On winning the Premio Luchetta Parry said “They were impressed by the editorial prominence which the Daily Mirror gave to the crisis in Somalia, and that we highlighted the plight of millions by focusing on one child who tragically, and unnecessarily, died from acute malnutrition.

“This is an accolade I genuinely treasure.”

The International Press category is one of two open to non-Italian entrants.

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