The Digital Journalist
© David Leeson

War Orphan. Angola

I am haunted by this image. It comes to me in my dreams. It visits me when I least expect it. I have shed many tears over the years from this one experience in a war-besieged town in Angola named Melange. I had been told that there were more than 1,000 war orphans living on the streets. The city itself had been under siege by Unita rebels for months. Each night there were rocket attacks and the skies were streaked with gunfire. The situation was desperate as aid agencies, risking their lives, worked to provide food for the city. It was never enough. One morning I went with a translator to find the orphans. He took me to a bombed out two-story building. I climbed the stairs, stained with human feces, and stepped into a room full of children sleeping on the bare floor. The oldest was 13. The youngest was four years old cared for by his brother who was only six.

The scene was emotionally devastating. It took a moment for me to continue as the tears began to flow. I whispered aloud to myself through clenched teeth and said, "Not now. Not now. You can cry later. Now you must tell the world."

I still regret that day. I do not regret finding them. I do not regret the photo and believe it still resonates truth today about the ugliness of war. I regret that I did not pick him up for fear that his bones, brittle from malnutrition, would break.