I met Clara and Zacharia in early 2017 while I was on assignment for Save the Children in Mozambique. During my stay, I visited the malnutrition ward of Hospital Central in Beira. On my last day, I decided to revisit the hospital and make portraits of the admitted children with their carers. It was, for me, the most direct way to pay my respect to them. What I saw and felt was an unconditional love for one another. I believe and hope that the viewer feels what I felt when I was photographing.

It was so hot inside the building. My shirt was completely wet and I didn’t know if it was tears or streams of sweat running down my face. I was touched by what I saw. Truthfully, it feels strange that I win awards with images that have more than once depicted the misery of others. On the other hand, it is my role to create empathy for people who find themselves in situations they didn’t chose or create.

In this case, Clara is suffering from acute malnutrition. She is going through a very hard time. Not only is she very ill from malnourishment, but she also broke her hip. To add to their troubles, they live far from the hospital.

Zacharia is with Clara all the time. They spend every minute of the day together. When you look at the image of Zacharia holding Clara, I hope you see the love of a father for his daughter he might lose, instead of two victims of fate.

I hope that you stay with them for a short while and feel for them instead of turning away. I realize that through winning this award, more people can be part of Clara and Zacharia’s story—I am very grateful for that.

—Chris de Bode

Editor’s Note: The cover image of this article won 1st prize, single images, in the LensCulture Portrait Awards 2017.

If you’re interested in seeing more work on this and similar topics, we’d recommend the following articles: Maputo Diary, vibrant, imaginative images that offer a vision of Mozambique through the eyes of an individual whose life has been split between two different cultures; Fear and Family, a series on the horrific albino trade in Mozambique; and Growing in Darkness, a report on the country’s street children.