Sierra Leone: Sinking into the sea piece by piece
How it feels to lose the ground under your feet: the inhabitants of Nyangai Island, off the coast of the West African country of Sierra Leone, are experiencing it more drastically every year. As recently as ten years ago, the island measured some 2,300 feet from end to end. Storms and rising waters have left it a patch of sand barely 300 feet long. The pictures of the children on this island, taken by British photographer Tommy Trenchard, are therefore pictures of farewell.
The remaining boys and girls will have to leave the island along with their parents. Of three villages, only one remains, the former football pitch is under water most of the day, the sea spills over the thresholds of the houses, there is no more space for new housing in the center of the island, and the trees of a once large forest lie rotting in the salt water. At every high tide, the children have to wade through knee-high water. Trenchard’s images document an impending loss of home that threatens ‘only’ 400 people on this island, but millions of victims of extreme weather and climate change worldwide. “God will decide what happens to us. We’re in his hands now”, says the island’s chief.
Tommy Trenchard, UK (Panos Pictures)
Tommy Trenchard, born in 1989, works as a freelance photographer for international NGOs such as Médecins Sans Frontières, Oxfam, and ActionAid. In his eleven-year career as a photographer, he has reported on the fight against IS in Iraq, the problem of landmines in Angola, the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. For ten years, Trenchard has lived in various African countries and currently resides in South Africa.
He has been awarded the Amnesty International Media Award and three gold medals at the Paris Photo Fair for his photo series, which are regularly published in major newspapers and magazines in Europe and the USA.