February 10, 2006

Reuters Photo of Child Famine Victim Wins Top Award

AMSTERDAM -- A Reuters picture of a mother and child at an emergency feeding center in Niger during the recent famine there won the coveted 2005 World Press Photo of the Year Award, organizers said on Friday.

The picture, taken by Canadian photographer Finbarr O'Reilly in Tahoua, northwestern Niger, on August 1 2005 shows the emaciated fingers of a one-year old child pressed against the lips of his mother.

A swarm of locusts and the worst drought in decades left millions of people short of food in the west African state.

"The picture has haunted me ever since I first saw it two weeks ago," said James Colton, chairman of the World Press jury. "It has stayed in my head, even after seeing all the thousands of others during the competition.

"This image has everything -- beauty, horror and despair."

The picture was chosen from 83,044 images entered by 4,448 professional photographers -- 182 more than in 2004 -- from 122 countries.

"The beauty of the picture is that there is a little ambiguity in it ... To me it showed compassion between mother and child. But some people may look at it as being helplessness and despair," Colton said in an interview.

O'Reilly will receive a cash prize of 10,000 euros ($12,000) for the award.

A Reuters photographer, Arko Datta, also won the top award for 2004 with a picture of an Indian woman mourning a relative killed by the Asian tsunami.

"We are deeply honored and extremely proud to win news photography's top award for the second year running," said Reuters Editor-in-Chief Geert Linnebank.

"Photo journalism is integral to what we do every day at Reuters -- holding up mirrors so the world can watch and understand itself."

Based in Amsterdam, the World Press Photo is a prestigious annual international competition in press photography. Reuters won three awards across three categories this year.

O'Reilly's photograph also won second prize in People in the News Singles. Mohamed Azakir, also a Reuters photographer, won first prize in Spot News Singles for a picture of a Lebanese man shouting for help for a wounded man after a car bomb explosion in Beirut.