The peoples of the African nations bordering the Sahara Desert are slowly starving. Their cattle?
The peoples of the African nations bordering the Sahara Desert are slowly starving. Their cattle drop dead from hunger every day; their crops fail to flourish and harvests have bene cut by more than 50 per cent over the period of the past seven years. No human effort seems enough to halt the dreadful inevitability of the position. Criticism of world aid has been levelled by, amongst many, President Leopold Senghor of Senegal. International aid has been frugal, he said. Developed countries had not come through with anywhere near the amounts necessary for the survival of millions.
Even as the British Royal Air Force flies giant Hercules transport planes on daily missions of mercy into western Mali, the sands of the Sahara encroach what was once comparatively fertile land. Visnews cameraman, Bill McConville flew with one of the R.A.F. crews aboard a Hercules aircraft on Sunday (22 July). He arrive in Nioro, Mali just as the skies were darkening with heavy rain clouds. Within hours of his landing the rains came..torrential, perhaps even vicious as the water swept away what little topsoil remained. Within minutes deep pools had formed, but after seven years of diminishing rainfall the new water had little more use than as swimming holes for children.
Thirst crazed cattle gorged themselves - and many died form overdrinking. Their carcasses littered the barren landscape, mingling with the bones of other animals which had perished thorough lack of water.
The peoples of Nioro and villages up-country put on brave fronts to welcome the convoys bringing grain and a new, shot lease on life. They sang and danced, their children smiled shyly at the camera as they waited with tins, bowls and anything that might be used to scoop up spilled grain as it was rationed out.
Mali used to grow about 400,00 tons of grain each year. This year the crop is almost nil. Desperately they need at lest 200,00 tons now. They've been promised 160,000 tons by the member countries of the European Common Market and the United Nations Organisation. There's 28,000 tons off foodstuffs lying at Dakar Docks in Senegal. It was sent by the United States, but distribution is the problem.
As the Sahare creeps forward gobbling up once good soil at an annually accelerating rate, the starving countries turn to distant lands pleading for help. It is coming, but not fast enough.