This is Iman’s third day in the hospital bed. The usually happy, rambunctious two-year-old has pneumonia and a chest infection.
Most of what we’ve seen from the mass movement of refugees and migrants in the Middle East is chaos—crowds of people crossing seas in too-small boats, then clamoring to be allowed through border checkpoints, and sometimes running from guards armed with guns and water cannons. In the middle of this cacophony, photographer Magnus Wennman turned to the quiet moments.
The photos in Wennman’s series Where the Children Sleep show the individual suffering of the youngest refugees. The project recently won third place in the People/Stories division of the 2016 World Press Photo Contest.
More than 2.4 million Syrian children are living as refugees, according to UNICEF. That’s a little more than half of the total number of refugees who have fled Syria, and many more migrants have left other Middle Eastern countries to avoid conflict, poverty, and famine.
Many of these children carry their belongings and walk for long stretches at a time, others work menial jobs to earn money for their families. Plenty of them are sick and hungry. They’ve lost their parents, their homes, and their chance for an education. And as Wennman shows us, these children have even lost a privilege many of us take for granted—a peaceful bedtime.
In an interview with CNN last fall, Wennman acknowledged that the politics of the refugee crisis can be difficult to understand. “But,” he said, “there is nothing hard to understand about how children need a safe place to sleep."