Heart-Wrenching Gaza Image Wins World Press Photo of the Year

001 World Press Photo of the Year Mohammed Salem Reuters
Palestinian woman Inas Abu Maamar, 36, embraces the body of her 5-year-old niece Saly, who was killed in an Israeli strike, at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, October 17, 2023. (photo by Mohammed Salem/REUTERS, all images courtesy World Press Photo Foundation)

Gaza-based Reuters photojournalist Mohammed Salem was awarded the 2024 World Press Photo of the Year award for his devastating capture of a Palestinian woman caressing the wrapped body of her dead niece in a hospital last year.

Taken on October 17, 2023 at Nasser Hospital morgue in Khan Younis, the photo of Inas Abu Maamar mourning the loss of five-year-old Saly marks Salem’s second award from the World Press Photo Foundation (WPP), as he earned recognition in 2010 for a shot of Israeli white phosphorus bombs exploding over Gaza City.

In a statement about the 2024 contest winners, the jury said it “recognized that [Salem] was awarded for the same subject nearly a decade ago, underscoring the continued struggle for recognition of such a pressing issue.”

When the photo was initially published in Reuters, Salem said that his wife had given birth only days prior to his documentation of Inas Abu Maamar. It was reported that Saly was killed alongside her mother and sister, leaving her younger brother Ahmed and her father Ramez Abu Maamar as survivors.

“Mohammed received the news of his WPP award with humility, saying that this is not a photo to celebrate but that he appreciates its recognition and the opportunity to publish it to a wider audience,” said Rickey Rodgers, global editor for Reuters photos, reading a statement on behalf of Salem during the award ceremony in Amsterdam. “He hopes with this award that the world will become even more conscious of the human impact of war, especially on children.”

During the ceremony, WPP also acknowledged the risks and dangers journalists are faced with today, noting that 99 members of the press have been killed in Occupied Palestine and Israel since October 7.

The Story of the Year award went to GEO photographer Lee-Ann Olwage of South Africa for capturing a Madagascan family affected by an elder’s dementia as concerns about the illness mount worldwide. Venezuelan photojournalist Alejandro Cegarra (New York Times/Bloomberg) took home the Long Term Project award for his shot of a migrant stepping between the roofs of two train cars in Piedras Negras, Mexico, and the Open Format award went to Ukrainian photojournalist Julia Kochetova for her image of a child using the national flag to create a checkpoint in the Kharkiv region.

WPP’s jury selected the winning images from a pool of 61,062 entries submitted by 3,851 photographers across 130 countries. See additional photos from this year’s global and regional awards below and here.

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