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Photographer Helps Rescue Children From Ritualistic Killing

John Rowe

A San Diego photographer who's traveled the world capturing intimate photos of people from Asia, Latin America and Africa is on a mission to stop the ritualistic killing of children in the lower Omo Valley in southwest Ethiopia. A place National Geographic calls the last frontier in Africa.

You may have seen the work of John Rowe on the pages of various publications, including National Geographic.

"I love people and I love photographing people and culture, I think it's so fascinating," Rowe said referring to his life long passion. He's lived in San Diego County for 25 years and was once a photographer for the Navy. But he's now on another mission in one of the most isolated areas in southwest Ethiopia.


There, drought and famine are believed to be a curse by some tribes brought on by children born out of wedlock, born a twin or simply having a chipped tooth. Much of the area remains tribal and is without clean water, electricity or medical care. About 200,000 Ethiopians call this home.

"They don't have an education, they don't have a written language, so trying to explain drought, famine, sickness, death. It's hard for them to know, they don't have access to information," Rowe said.

And for hundreds of years this culture known for its body adornment have been sacrificing children for the good of the entire tribe.

"When I heard that there were children dying, being killed and we could prevent that, just one, if you could save one life in your life that's quite an achievement," Rowe said.

Rowe was on assignment in the Omo Valley when his guide and translator Lale Labuko told him he lost two sisters to the ritual and so he vowed to stop the killing. This past July he did just that. He convinced the elders of the Kara tribe to stop it.


"And Lale told them, 'look, our generation is the future and we are going to be the elders, and we are going to change this for sure,'" Rowe said with a strong voice.

Omo Child has rescued 37 children and they live together in a safe but small home about 25 miles from the tribes. But the challenge is far from over. There are currently 50,000 Hamer people who still practice infanticide. And Rowe and Labuko are still working to convince them to stop.

"And to be able to impact many lives, whether it's here in San diego or in Africa, wherever it is in the world as an American, as a person whose been blessed, you can't ignore your responsibility to give back," Rowe said.

That's what he's trying to do with Omo Child. To see and hear more about the work his organization is doing go to their website.