We’re closing out the year with a look back at the top 10 photos of 2023! One of the blessings of our work is capturing the spirit of the people we serve alongside in photographs. From a primary health care clinic in Ukraine to an expecting mother in Tanzania, there are thousands of pictures we took that made us pause. Some are just beautiful images, some capture the pure joy of children…but they all demonstrate the importance and power of our work.

Keep reading to see what images we loved this year and the stories behind them. Then, for the first time, we’re asking you to pick the best photo of the year! Make sure you vote for the best photo of the year at the end of this post.

A mobile medical team cares in Sudan

best photos of 2023 - a woman in red smiles
Our mobile medical teams in Sudan jumped into action to care for people displaced by conflict. Photo by Medical Teams International.

When conflict in Sudan’s capital city, Khartoum, broke out in early April, the consequences were devastating. Because of the violence, millions of people were forced to leave home for their own safety. It was a dangerous and unpredictable time. As a result, many people lost access to health care or needed extra support when they finally made it to a refugee settlement.

In the midst of the chaos, our mobile medical teams jumped into action. They greeted hundreds of people each day with smiles, warm reassurances, and life-saving medical care. The photo above — in addition to the striking color of the woman’s headscarf — captures the relief and gratitude of the people our mobile medical teams serve. For these reasons and more, we’re including it in our top 10 best photos of 2023 round-up!

A mother kisses her young son

Nohelis, a mother in Colombia, kisses her 6-month-old son, Denyer, on the cheek. Photo by Lina Hernandez.

“We never thought we would receive that kind of help,” Nohelis says. “We never imagined Medical Teams would help us that much.” 

Nohelis is one tough mother. When Venezuela’s desperate economic situation made it hard for her and her family to get enough to eat, she made a courageous choice. She took her young son, Allan, and made the journey to Colombia. Even though they have better opportunities in Colombia, she and her husband still struggled to get access to reliable health care. That’s when Nohelis was connected through a community health worker to Medical Teams.

Her second pregnancy, with her son Denyer, was high risk. Nohelis was experiencing high blood pressure and had a history of lupus. But with regular care, she was able to safely deliver her baby. This photo, of Nohelis kissing Denyer’s cheek, captures the purity of a mother’s love for her child. The orange wall, the blue of her shirt, and the expression on Nohelis’s face says it all.

A screening for diabetes in the U.S.

A volunteer pricks a patient’s finger for an hba1c test at a clinic in the U.S. Photo by Carmen Miller.

Every day, right here in our own backyards, people struggle to access health care. The reality is that there are huge gaps in our health care system. That’s where our Care & Connect Mobile Health clinics come in. From rural areas to houseless encampments, we’re able to bring care to the people who need it most. They’re people without health insurance, or who can’t afford their co-pay. Or they’re one of our unhoused neighbors, who don’t have a regular address. Maybe they’re someone who’s experiencing addiction, or they can’t get an appointment with their regular doctor. Whatever the case, we’re happy we can be there to help.

That’s why the above photo is one of our top 10 photos of 2023. At the heart of our Care & Connect Mobile Health clinics is human connection. It’s about one person holding out a hand to help the other. We love the way this shot is framed, with the hands of the patient and volunteer as the focus of the photo.

A mother in Ethiopia with her children

A mother with her children sit in their tent together in Ethiopia. Photo by Medical Teams International.

When conflict broke out in Sudan, many people from Sudan sought refuge in Ethiopia. Sadly, as a result of the influx of people, conditions were prime for cholera. Medical Teams acted accordingly. We worked hard to set up clinics, spread awareness about cholera, and help people affected by the conflict.

This mother, sitting with her three young children, is like many of the people we cared for this year. This photo was chosen for the top 10 in part because of the colors. You can see clearly how the contrast of her scarf and her son’s sweater against the green tarp of her tent shelter is striking. But most importantly, in her eyes you can see determination and strength. We’re proud to serve alongside courageous people like her.

A proud son holding a family portrait

Allan, Nohelis’s older son, holds a family portrait proudly outside his home in Colombia. Photo taken by Lina Hernandez.

You’ve met Nohelis and her younger son, Denyer. Now, meet her other sweet son, Allan! When Nohelis was pregnant with Denyer, Allan fell ill with a stomach virus that required hospitalization. She called Medical Teams for help. Nohelis described her son’s symptoms to our provider, who referred her to a hospital. But it was still a stressful time, especially while she was pregnant.

“We all have needs always,” Nohelis says, “But Medical Teams arrived at the perfect time, when we were needing you the most.”

When our communications team in Colombia first interviewed Nohelis, they took a photo of her with her sons. A few months later, they went back to visit. They brought with them a print of the photo they took the first time, which Allan proudly holds outside his home. The reality is that when families leave home, like Nohelis did, they take few of their belongings with them. For some people, the photos we bring to them are some of the only ones they have. The little slice of life that this photo captures makes this photo special!

A caregiver in Ukraine gives a check-up

A Medical Teams provider, in partnership with IOM, gives a check-up in Ukraine. Photo by Stanislav Kalach at IOM.

While this may seem like a mundane moment, the above photo is actually a momentous occasion! After the conflict in Ukraine began, health care became increasingly difficult for Ukrainians to access. Because so much infrastructure was damaged, and so many people were forced from home, it’s hard to get basic health care needs met. Our mobile medical teams move through regions affected by the conflict, helping people get the care they need.

The photo above, though it looks like it could be a clinic anywhere, demonstrates the normalcy that Medical Teams brings when they visit. It’s a brief pause for the patient, who knows they’re in a place where they’ll be listened to and cared for. That’s why we chose it for our top 10 photos of 2023 — it’s a warm reminder that even basic health care has a big impact.

A mother in Tanzania stands in her backyard

Bikorimana, a mother in Tanzania, stands in her backyard. Photo by Suhaila Stanthon Thawer.

When Bikorimana learned she was pregnant with her fifth child, she was overjoyed. But then, she began to worry. Though she was excited, she was also nervous — her previous pregnancies had been difficult. She was worried she might not survive another delivery. Then, a friend told her about Medical Teams. When Bikorimana came to our clinic in Tanzania, she was relieved to be finally getting the care she needed.

“I feel hope and excitement,” Bikorimana says. “I feel secure and free from worry thanks to the medical attention I received from Medical Teams.”

In the photo above, you can see the peace on her face. Alongside the red brick of her home, in sharp contrast to the light and green leaves of her backyard, her colorful top fits in perfectly. We love this photo and hope it inspires you, too!

A man in Gaza looks up through rubble

An aid worker in Gaza stands and looks up through rubble. Photo taken by Mohamad Zaanoun.

The photo above comes to us from our partners, Anera and International Health Partners, who are on the ground in Gaza. Through our partnership, we’re helping provide aid to people affected by the devastating conflict in Palestine. Photographer Mohamad Zaanoun captured this moment, where a worker looks up through a destroyed building. It’s a harsh reminder of the destructive toll conflict takes on regular people.

But the other thing that makes this photo so striking, and one of our top 10 of 2023, is the light. Amidst so much rubble, the sun still breaks through. As the man looks up toward the sky, it seems — in some small way — like the slightest ray of hope.

A mother and daughter sort maize together

Robinah and her daughter, Jenifa, sort maize together in Nakivale refugee settlement. Photo by Sandra Naluwugge.

When Robinah moved with her daughter and grandchildren to a refugee settlement in Uganda, she thought she was making a move toward a better life. And she was! But it was a journey to get there. When she fell into a deep depression after the move, she felt hopeless for the future. After seeing a Medical Teams provider, though, and getting counseling, she was able to rebuild her life.

That’s why the above photo is more than just a happy image of two women working together. It’s a symbol of how hard Robinah worked to restore her sense of well-being. Today, she’s a joyful grandmother who loves to garden. She loves talking and laughing with her daughter, even while they’re at work!

Two brothers play outside their home

Brothers Andrew and Isaac play together outside their home in Santa Marta, Colombia. Photo by Lauren Odderstol.

We’re rounding out our top 10 photos of 2023 with the joyful photo above! These two sweet brothers are named Andrew and Isaac. Their mother, Nelimar, was connected to Medical Teams through one of our community health volunteers, Maria. We love this photo because it captures the pure joy of two little boys playing together.

Our photographer, Lauren Odderstol, also shares that what she loved most about this photo was its simplicity. It captures the kind of moment everyone’s experienced. While the adults — the boys’ mother and a Medical Teams volunteer — were talking, the kids ran outside to play. She snapped the photo of them, and in doing so, she shows one of the commons thread that binds all of us.

The votes are in!

You’ve seen the top 10 photos that captured our hearts this year. Now, the people have spoken and the votes are in.

Drumroll please…

Brothers Isaac and Andrew won! This joyful photo captures the pure heart of children everywhere. You and readers like you loved it, rating it the highest of all top 10 photos by a landslide.

Brothers Andrew and Isaac play together outside their home in Santa Marta, Colombia.

Thank you for voting! If you’d like to make more photos like these possible in 2024, consider making a gift today. 

Portions of this post have been updated. The original post was published in December 2023.