Reporters Sam Mednick, Burkina Faso, and Lori Hinnant, Paris, made AP the first news organization to report that virus-linked hunger is leading to the deaths of 10,000 more children a month over the first year of the pandemic, according to the United Nations.
The story was sparked by a riveting set of photos and video by Mednick, showing an emaciated baby who had lost half her (already low) birth weight because her mother couldn't feed her enough. The AP already sought to show the worldwide increase in hunger due to the virus, and with the Burkina Faso visuals, Hinnant decided the best way to tell the story was through children. She arranged with the United Nations to share the grim statistics with AP for publication at the same time as a major medical journal. The U.N. also noted that 550,000 children a month were struck by what is known as “wasting,” which has long-term effects that can hold back an entire generation.
The numbers went along with an effort to talk to children, families, doctors and aid workers across five countries in different regions: Burkina Faso, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Yemen and South Sudan. Journalists Christine Armario, Fazel Rahman, Issa Mohammed and Isabel DeBre provided heartbreaking anecdotes and visuals. In the case of Yemen, AP went back to the family with a hungry baby whom we had spoken to previously – only to find out that the baby had died.
The widely used story struck a nerve with readers, some of whom reached out seeking to help the families.