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Reuters’ Mohammed Salem wins 2024 World Press Photo of the Year award for photo of grieving Palestinian woman

Reuters photographer Mohammed Salem won the prestigious 2024 World Press Photo of the Year award on April 18 for his photo of a Palestinian woman cradling the body of her five-year-old niece in the Gaza Strip.

The photo was taken on October 17, 2023, at the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, where families were searching for relatives killed during the Israeli bombardment of the Palestinian enclave.

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Mr Salem’s winning photo shows 36-year-old Inas Abu Maamar sobbing as she holds Saly’s sheet-clad body in the hospital mortuary.

“Mohammed received the news of his WPP award with humility and said that this is not a photo to celebrate, but that he appreciates its recognition and the opportunity to publish it to a wider audience,” he said. ReutersGlobal Editor for Pictures and Video, Rickey Rogers, said at a ceremony in Amsterdam.

“He hopes with this award that the world will become even more aware of the human impact of war, especially on children,” said Rogers, standing for the photo in the Nieuwe Kerk in the Dutch capital.

Announcing its annual awards, the Amsterdam-based World Press Photo Foundation said it is important to recognize the dangers faced by journalists covering conflict.

It said 99 journalists and media workers have been killed while covering the war between Israel and Hamas since the Palestinian militant group attacked southern Israel on October 7 and Israel responded by launching a military offensive in Gaza.

“The work of press and documentary photographers around the world is often done at high risk,” said Joumana El Zein Khoury, the organization’s executive director.

“Over the past year, the death toll in Gaza has pushed the number of journalists murdered to a near record high. It is important to acknowledge the trauma they experienced to show the world the humanitarian impact of the war.”

Mr Salem, a 39-year-old Palestinian, has worked for Reuters since 2003. He also won a prize in the 2010 World Press Photo competition.

The jury said the winning image of 2024 Salem “was composed with care and respect while offering a metaphorical and literal look at unimaginable loss.”

“I felt like the photo captures the broader feeling of what was happening in the Gaza Strip,” Mr. Salem said when the image was first published in November.

“People were confused and running from one place to another, afraid to know the fate of their loved ones. This woman caught my attention as she held the little girl’s body and refused to let go.”

‘Profound influence’

Salem’s wife had given birth to their child days before he took the photo.

The photo has “profound implications”, said judge Fiona Shields, head of photography at Guardian News & Media.

The jury selected the winning photos from 61,062 entries from 3,851 photographers from 130 countries.

GEO photographer Lee-Ann Olwage from South Africa won the Story of the Year category with images documenting dementia in Madagascar.

The long-term projects category was won by Alejandro Cegarra from Venezuela for the series “The Two Walls”. The New York Times/Bloomberg.

Ukrainian photographer Julia Kochetova won the open format prize with ‘War is Personal’, which documented the war in her country by interweaving photographs, poetry, audio and music in a documentary style.

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