FRANCE 24’s special correspondent in Niger, Melissa Bell, recounts her experiences reporting on the food crisis that has blighted the country.
Thursday, June 10
It is always the slums that offer the best clues. Within a limited space, they hold such a concentration of extraordinary stories, a sort of condensed version of all the hardship endured by the least fortunate. And, often, they hold the key to understanding the society that has left them behind, all within a neat square mile.
In the case of Koara-Tegi, it is two-and-a-half square miles. It was our second day in Niamey and Koara-Tegi had drawn us back for a second visit. Its chief -- in charge of a slum of 100,000 people -- told us of the daily arrivals of people from the country, all driven here by hunger. They brought with them news of barren fields and of trees stripped of anything edible.
And he introduced us to a group of recent arrivals -- a family made up entirely of women and children. The men had gone back to their village on the outskirts of Oualam, about 100 kilometres from Niamey, in order to plant the fields in the hope of better times ahead.
The women stayed here on the floor of a straw hut, surrounded by small children, hoping to be fed by neighbours. The oldest woman told us that they all dreamt of going home. But while they had been driven here by hunger, it was desperation that made them stay put. A dirty slum is better than an empty field. Almost anything is.
Date created : 2010-06-10