With fighting raging in neighboring Ethiopia and the conflict largely sealed off from the rest of the world, AP journalists on the country’s border with Sudan have documented the influx of refugees, obtaining valuable information about the situation inside the defiant Tigray region.
The thousands of refugees spilling over the border into Sudan from Ethiopia’s Tigray region are some of the only firsthand witnesses to a worsening conflict that remains out of reach for most of the world’s media. Crossing a remote desert area, they recount ethnic-targeted killings, many fleeing at a moment’s notice and leaving loved ones behind amid an offensive by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmad’s government against Tigray separatists.
Dubai-based video journalist Fay Abuelgasim and Cairo photographer Nariman el-Mofty have put individual faces on the complex story since arriving at the Sudan-Ethiopia border area nearly two weeks ago. Along with reporters Sam Magdy in Cairo and Cara Anna in Nairobi, freelance photographer Marwan Ali and video journalist Mohaned Awad, their work has shown the human toll of a conflict to which access remains tightly restricted, even as the United Nations warns of possible war crimes.
Abuelgasim and el-Mofty were among the few journalists who negotiated access to an expansive border river where refugees crossed in crowded boats. They captured scenes of broken families amid an arduous journey, many with young children. Anna, who has reported extensively on the conflict, has provided indispensable insight into the situation on the other side of the border even as the communications blackout persists in the region and the warring parties release scant and conflicting information.
After receiving a tip from Magdy, who had been in touch with aid workers on the ground, Abuelgasim and el-Mofty profiled two mothers who went into labor while they were fleeing the violence in Tigray. One gave birth alone while walking on the desert road. Other refugees passing by found her and helped her wash the baby boy in a puddle. She and another mother who went into labor while fleeing, giving birth to a girl, say they’re struggling to breastfeed their infants in the camps where food and clean water can be scarce.
Their images of the new arrivals at scattered refugee camps, often a three-hour drive on rough roads from the nearest town, have earned significant client usage, with Abuelgasim’s video edits from the border area seeing top usage for nearly two weeks, while el-Mofty’s photos of the refugees crossing into Sudan have been used by The New York Times and The Washington Post, among other international clients.
For their determined, resourceful and revealing work to document the individual struggles of an escalating refugee crisis, Abuelgasim, el-Mofty, Anna and Magdy earn AP’s Best of the Week award.