Wednesday, 27 July 2016

All skin and bones: AFP Correspondent photographs Nigeria starving children in Muna, Maiduguri

Photos of Nigerian starving children in Muna, a suburb on the outskirts of Maiduguri where the UN children’s agency UNICEF runs a nutritional clinic, taken by Stefan Heunis, a Freelance photographer based in Lagos. Read below:
"It may be the rainy season, but the savannah scrubland stretching out below me is dusty, dry and brown, linked by a spider’s web of dirt tracks and footpaths.
I’m in a plane descending toward the Maiduguri International Airport and squint to focus on the hamlets dotted across the landscape, It’s my third visit here and once again I can’t see many natural water bodies, which gives me a familiar uncomfortable feeling. How do people survive in this harsh climate?” I wonder. I remind myself to stay hydrated. 
 "Touch down in Maiduguri and the light is blindingly bright. The air hits you in the face like a hairdryer on its hottest setting. I’ve come here to report on the latest calamity to befall the capital of Borno state. Sitting on the north banks of the seasonal Ngadda river and historically a major commercial hub just south of the Sahara, it was fought over for centuries by traders, traditional and religious leaders, then about a century ago the colonialists.

Over the past several years, it had become more notorious as the birthplace of Boko Haram, the Islamist group whose insurgency has devastated northeast Nigeria since 2009 and spilled across the border into Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

AFP has covered the insurgency since it began: the horrific and relentless attacks on mosques, churches, markets and bus stations, suicide bombings and raids on remote villages. In the last 18 months the Nigerian military, helped by its neighbors, has reclaimed territory from the insurgents, apparently weakening the radical group to the point of "technical" defeat.

But this doesn't mean the people living here are doing any better.
In recent weeks another shocking dimension of the conflict has emerged: severe food shortages have meant that hundreds of people -- in particular children -- are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. That’s a fancy way of saying they’re starving. Sometimes to death

The camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) where the worst malnutrition cases have been reported are not accessible without military assistance, so we decide to drive to an informal settlement in Muna, a suburb on the outskirts of Maiduguri where the UN children’s agency UNICEF runs a nutritional clinic

Before going to a place like Muna, I always try to figure out the best way to portray the situation in the most honest way I can, while still maintaining the humanity in the subjects.

It is never easy to witness suffering and be practically powerless to affect change, to do anything about the people’s immediate circumstances
t’s challenging because you need to retain respect for your subjects, which in this case entails focusing a lens on them and capturing that moment in time. I believe part of that respect comes with sensitivity towards the different realities that you are presented with.

My first impression of the Muna settlement is of a dry dust bowl, a barren patch of land devoid of grass and vegetation. The tents are scattered in clusters over the naked earth and the sun beats down on the ground....

More photos below...

Photo credit: Stefan Heunis
Source: Read the full original post on AFPblogs written by Yana Dlugy:

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