The deceptive and fake picture of the victims of Nepal earthquake

by esther nimmo

Nepal earthquake
Deception is not appreciated even while supporting a humanitarian cause. Photo by Na Son Nguyen. Location: NOT NEPAL!

11 May 2015 7:20 PM AEST: The little boy hugging his younger sister that so universally symbolised the unimaginable sufferings of the Nepalese people following the April 25 mega-earthquake has been proven to be nothing more than a fake representation of the tragedy.

The picture had gone viral after the 7.8 temblor hit the Himalayan nation last month but a BBC story revealed on May 4 that the tiny subjects of the sympathy-evoking picture were not Nepali after all.

According to the original author of the photo, Na Son Nguyen, it was actually taken in a remote Vietnamese village called Can Ty in Ha Giang province.

“I was passing through the village but was stopped by the scene of two Hmong children playing in front of their house while their parents were away working in the field,” Nguyen told BBC, “The little girl, probably two years old, cried in the presence of a stranger so the boy, who was maybe three years old or so, hugged his sister to comfort her.”

The photographer, who first published the photo in 2007 on a personal blog, said he took the photo because it was ‘both moving and cute’. But he said he was surprised to discover three years ago when Vietnamese Facebook users started to use the photo of ‘abandoned orphans’.

Following the reappearance of the picture in the wake of the Nepali disaster, there were even calls on social media to look for the two children either to sponsor or adopt them. But mathematics indicate they should be in their late teens now.

In a report published on May 8, The Guardian also said the picture is a ‘stock photograph’ that has been taken out every time disasters render children ‘desperate, vulnerable and alone’, especially those that are ‘brown-looking’. It suggested the picture was used to portray children in similar situations before, in Burma and Syria.

The picture had gone  viral in the aftermath of the disaster that has now claimed over 8,000 people. According to Save the Children, it has affected nearly 2 million Nepali children. Many celebrities, presumably for lack of knowledge, used the picture to express their sympathy for the children in the pictures.

One such famous personality was Simi Garewal, noted Bollywood personality who said, “My heart goes out to this brother protecting his sister in Nepal… wish we could adopt them…” There were innumerable other humanitarians who were truly moved by the picture.

“We cannot deceive people in today’s world. There are ways to prove veracity of materials,” said Bharat Raj Paudel, a PhD candidate on Media Framing of Emergency & Natural Disaster at Queensland University of Technology.

He viewed that it is not only the social media users but journalists themselves who often resort to deception as they compete with each other for new scoops. “Fortunately, we can dissect news materials just as an archaeologist would break down and analyse a piece of fossil,” the former radio journalist from Nepal said.

4 thoughts on “The deceptive and fake picture of the victims of Nepal earthquake

  1. It is sad, the misrepresentation of this image by the media. It is sad too that I’m not at all surprised. Great piece Esther.

    1. Yes, Tenille – you said it. It is sad but unsurprising. The lengths some will go to for a few measly likes. Such is life.

  2. Bharat Raj Poudel

    - Edit


    Yes,there are number of pictures like the one we have shared here but I didn’t quite understand what made them to compete with each other for such a scoop.

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