Flood survivors, former sex slaves, fantastic masks: Top global photo stories of 2021

 (Peter Caton/Action Against Hunger / Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR / Toyo Sarno Jordan for NPR)
(Peter Caton/Action Against Hunger / Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR / Toyo Sarno Jordan for NPR)

This year, Goats and Soda published a number of photo essays from photographers and artists from around the globe.

One story gives a human face to the problem we've all heard about: food insecurity in the pandemic, from the Philippines to Tennessee. Readers were so moved they wrote in asking to make donations to the people we profiled. Another tells the story of a library aimed at kids that was started in two shipping containers in a violence-torn neighborhood in South Africa. Yet another shows the 15 things folks can't live without in a pandemic, from ants to holy water.

Here is a selection of our favorite global photo stories of 2021.

Prize-winning photos capture the grit and suffering of flood survivors in South Sudan

The photo series Unyielding Floods recently won its fifth award. It captures the strength and hardship of those affected by flooding of biblical proportions in South Sudan. Published Nov. 20, 2021

Nyayua Thang, 62, left, stands in waist-deep floodwaters in front of an abandoned primary school in South Sudan. Members of her village, displaced by extreme flooding as a result of heavy rainfall, are using the building as a refuge. Only small mud dikes at the entrance of the door are keeping the water out. (November 2020)

Mumbai falls in love with its forgotten fountains all over again

They're majestic. They're neglected. And now they're slowly being fixed up. Conservationists are preserving them — and officials hope the fountains will supply free water for the city's impoverished. Published April 11, 2021

Mumbai's grand Keshavji Nayak fountain towers above the street and serves as a place of respite for thirsty passersby. It's one of dozens of ornate fountains in the city, built during the British colonial era. (Viraj Nayar for NPR)

The Hot-Spot Library was born in two shipping containers in a Cape Town slum

It started with a guy who had a dream — bringing books to kids in a neighborhood torn apart by drug abuse and gang violence. It's the Hot-Spot Library of Cape Town, South Africa. Published June 27, 2021

Terence Crowster, who has been an avid reader since he was young, solicited donations to start the Hot-Spot Library in the Scottsville neighborhood in Cape Town, so kids would have a safe place to connect with books. (Tommy Trenchard for NPR)

Why a Zimbabwean photographer asked her subjects to pose in Victorian garb

African Victorian, a series of unconventional portraits by Zimbabwean photographer Tamary Kudita, combines Victorian fashion with her country's culture to examine the impact of the colonial era. Published May 31, 2021

In Rwendo, an African woman in an old-fashioned satin gown traverses a somber landscape. (Tamary Kudita)

The pandemic sends a single mom in the big city to a simpler, happier life

Ella Guity lived in the capital of Honduras with her daughters and mother. COVID-19 was surging. She sent them all to the fishing village where she grew up. Could she — should she — go too? Published Jan. 30, 2021

With the sun setting off the coast of northern Honduras, Ella Guity watches her daughters, Jirian and Eleny, swim in the warm Caribbean waters of the village of Rio Esteban, home to a group with African and Indigenous roots known as the Garifuna. Ella had left years earlier for life in the big city, but the pandemic led her back home. (Tomas Ayuso for NPR)

The new faces of pandemic food insecurity: hungry, worried ... yet generous

A lawyer who lost her job. A single mom with HIV. A grandmother who thought she had enough money to get by. A onetime golf coach. They're among the millions now struggling to put meals on the table. Published Sept. 17, 2021

Salman Khan Rashid, 24, with his mother, Sana Rashid, at home, lost his job as a golf coach at a Mumbai sports club during the pandemic. The household, which includes Salman's three sisters, is now surviving on savings. (Viraj Nayar for NPR)

Former sex slaves from WWII still fight for justice in the Philippines

Soldiers in the Japanese army systematically raped women in the Philippines. What's become of the aging survivors of this wartime atrocity in the midst of the pandemic? Published Sept. 24, 2021

Isabelita Vinuya, 88, reflected in mirror, bids farewell to Perla Bulaon Balingit in the village of Mapaniqui in Pampanga. They are two of the last living "comfort women" of the Philippines. On Nov. 23, 1944, Vinuya, Balingit and some 100 other girls and women were taken to the Red House and systematically raped by the Japanese Imperial Army. (Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR)

15 things folks can't live without in a pandemic, from ants to holy water

An anthropologist put out a call: Take a photo of 15 essential items that help you cope. She heard from 1,000-plus people in 50 countries. There's a lot of laptops — as well as wonderful surprises. Published July 2, 2021

Anthropologist Paula Zuccotti put a call out on Instagram asking people to send her a photo of 15 items that are helping them survive the pandemic. The submissions above are from Maria Belen Morales of Ecuador and Liliana Cadena of Colombia. (Lockdown Essentials)

Vaccine history repeats itself — sometimes

From the first vaccine (for smallpox) the questions have been the same. How do we transport it? Who's next to get it? Why so much hesitancy? The answers can be similar — or dramatically different. Published May 14, 2021

Dr. Sergen Saracoglu (left) and nurse Yilzdiz Ayten (center) arrive at the village of Guneyyamac in Turkey on Feb. 15 as part of an expedition to vaccinate residents 65 years and older with Sinovac's CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine. (Bulent Kilic/AFP via Getty Images)

Mexican masks portray COVID as a tiger, a devil, a blue-eyed man

Two professors invited Indigenous artisans to make masks portraying the agent of the pandemic — the coronavirus — through the lens of their cultural traditions. Published Aug. 28, 2021

Mestizo Man, created by Nahua artisan Zeferino Baltasar Basilio, symbolizes COVID-19, which was seen as having foreign origins, as an outsider. (Toya Sarno Jordan for NPR)

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