From A Passage to Africa
George Alagiah writes about his experiences as a television reporter during the war in Somalia, Africa in the 1990s. He won a special award for his report on the incidents described in this passage. I saw a thousand hungry, lean, scared and betrayed faces as I criss-crossed Somalia between the end of 1991 and December 1992, but there is one I will never forget. I was in a little hamlet just outside Gufgaduud, a village in the back of beyond, a place the aid agencies had yet to reach. In my notebook I had jotted down instructions on how to get there. ‘Take the Badale Road for a few kilometres till the end of the tarmac, turn right on to a dirt track, stay on it for about forty-five minutes — Gufgaduud. Go another fifteen minutes approx. — like a ghost village.’ … In the ghoulish manner of journalists on the hunt for the most striking pictures, my cameraman … and I tramped from one hut to another. What might have appalled us when we'd started our trip just a few days before no longer impressed us much. The search for the shocking is like the craving for a drug: you require heavier and more frequent doses the longer you're at it. Pictures that stun the editors one day are written off as the same old stuff the next. This sounds callous, but it is just a fact of life. It's how we collect and compile the images that so move people in the comfort of their sitting rooms back home. There was Amina Abdirahman, who had gone out that morning in search of wild, edible roots, leaving her two young girls lying on the dirt floor of their hut. They had been sick for days, and were reaching the final, enervating stages of terminal hunger. Habiba was ten years old and her sister, Ayaan, was nine. By the time Amina returned, she had only one daughter. Habiba had died. No rage, no whimpering, just a passing away — that simple, frictionless, motionless deliverance from a state of half-life to death itself. It was, as I said at the time in my dispatch, a vision of ‘famine away from the headlines, a famine of quiet suffering and lonely death’. There was the old woman who lay in her hut, abandoned by relations who were too weak to carry her on their journey to find food. It was the smell that drew me to her doorway: the smell of decaying flesh. Where her shinbone should have been there was a festering wound the size of my hand. She’d been shot in the leg as the retreating army of the deposed dictator … took revenge on whoever it found in its way. The shattered leg had fused into the gentle V-shape of a boomerang. It was rotting; she was rotting. You could see it in her sick, yellow eyes and smell it in the putrid air she recycled with every struggling breath she took.
Comment [i1]: Suggests suffering, triad, they seem forgotten by the rest of the world Comment [i2]: The repetition and constant use of ‘I’ indicates personal engagement, more intimate Comment [i3]: This experience stands out, right at the end, and it’s not because of the suffering as suggested through ‘but’ Comment [i4]: Very short introductory paragraph, but, with long sentences which highlights the significance of the event. This is a complex idea / event that requires a thoughtful re-telling and exploration Comment [i5]: Suggests isolation of the Somalian people Comment [i6]: Evokes pathos through the demonstration of how abandoned and forgotten these people are Comment [i7]: The use of long sentences, consisting of lists, further emphasizes the isolation of these people, - leading to pathos . In addition, it is as if the news crew are hunting for the worst image, where they could actually be helping these people – they are not being treated as humans but more as a story or a means to shock the viewers back home Comment [i8]: ‘ghost’ suggests isolation and emptiness, could also imply soulless , both literally and figuratively, as there really aren’t that many people in the village, these people also themselves lack souls. Comment [i9]: Similar to the...
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