• Short Summary

    This if the story asked for in John Brittle's letter of 17 July. The International?

  • Description

    GV the camp at Cocody.

    Exterior of the infirmary (see later shots).

    Children change clothes in the infirmary.


    5 to 10.
    Children playing in playground.

    Man rings bell to call children to classes.

    Children march off to classes singing song, which goes:

    'Home again,

    'Home again,

    'When shall I see my home?'

    'When shall I see my native land?

    'I'll never forget my home.'

    (This song is on the tape but is rendered here in case it's difficult to understand the African accent.

    Child with no pants on watches.

    Children in classroom.

    Teacher teaching. (Biafran -- the Ibo hairdo is distinctive.)

    Children listen to French lessons and reply.

    Exterior of classroom.

    Another classroom.

    Teacher instructs.

    CU Child

    Cutaway Red Cross ambulance, driver enters.

    CU Red Cross symbol on windscreen.

    Children rush into dining room.

    Some children crawl under skirting into dining room.

    Inside, child eats yoghourt with his finger.


    More scenes inside the dining-room with children eating their afternoon yoghourt -- contains lots of protein (see notes on kwashiorkor).

    Another dining room, where children sing prayers (hear tape) prior to attacking the yog.

    The camp's tailoress working at sewing machine.

    CU Her hands at machine.

    In the corner, plastic bags containing secondhand clothes, gifts from Ireland.

    CU clothes inside bag.

    Scenes inside the dormitories -- doll on bed, crucifix ditto, and picture of Christ on wall.

    Scenes of children being showered and bathed by bigger children.

    Little boy covered in soap.

    Children in the infirmary. (Suggest do not use these unless for dormitory scenes; they were shot merely to keep Mrs. Wright happy.)

    Canadian nurse gets clothing from cupboard full of donated clothes and dresses child.

    Scenes of girls playing netball (boy playing volleyball in b/g).

    Scenes of boys playing volleyball.

    PAN from volleyball to girls playing game in ring.

    Little girl in middle of ring.

    GV the camp.


    Kwashiorkor is a Ghanaian word meaning 'disease-of-the-second-child'. It is a condition of malnutrition derived from a deficiency of protein. it is to be found all over Africa in great numbers.
    The condition was first described by doctors working in West Africa many, many years before the Biafran War, and the adoption of the Ghanaian appellation was soon recognised by doctors in other parts of Africa.
    Kwashiorkor gets its name because nearly all second children of families in societies where the principal diet is starch, such as maize, contract the condition, which is easily understood when one considers the African custom of breast-feeding infants for two years or more together with the propensity for producing large families rapidly. A second child being born whole its mother is still nursing the first suffers because the mother is unable to produce enough milk in richness or quantity for both.
    While undoubtedly there was some starvation in Biafra during the war, it was nowhere near on the scale described in the Press throughout the world. Visiting journalists were unable (of course) to tell the difference between starvation and malnutrition and saw in the distended stomachs and matchstick-like legs and arms a good story. If doctors working in Biafra saw no reason to disabuse their minds, it was only because they saw the opportunity of a lot more help and medical supplies.
    If these journalists would now visit some of the rural parts of Zambia and Congo-K, for instance, they would see exactly the same sort of condition they saw in Biafra -- whole villages where hundreds of children are suffering from kwashiorkor.
    Thus the fight against kwashiorkor has been centred on educating the mothers on nutritional matters -- getting them to feed their infants on powdered milk, for instance.
    It would be safe to say that, had Ojukwu and his men never rebelled, there would be more kwashiorkor in Eastern Nigeria today because the rest of the world would not have focused its attention on the area with the resultant rush of protein foods.
    In any case, it would be most unlikely for any African population to starve because of a war, no matter how severe. ??? Europeans, who rely exclusively on supplied of good, the African, especially in the rural areas, produces his own. Some idea can be gained from counting the number of seeds on just one maize cob, and then there's cassava, and yams . . .
    I know of only on tribe in Africa that has never suffered kwashiorkor (though there may be a few others) and that that's the Masai of Kenya and Tanzania, whose diet is composed of fresh meat and blood, both from the living animal. Most other tribes on this continent rely for their diet on carbohydrates.
    Therefore, dear scriptwriter, you'll be wise if you don't fall into the trap that Norman Kirkham has done and many, many others before him.
    Don't perpetuate the myth!

    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: This if the story asked for in John Brittle's letter of 17 July. The International Red Cross, who run the camp, put up a lot of opposition to its being filmed but I eventually gained permission on the strict understanding that the film was not to be used for any political purpose, which would embarrass the organisation's relations with the Ivory Coast. Please also see my notes on kwashiorkor.

    There are three such camps in the Ivory Coast, the present one at Cocody (a district of Abidjan), which had 367 children; the one at Grand Bassam (35 kilometres along the coast from Abidjan), which has 208; and the one at Bouake (350 kilometres into the interior), which has 316. Thus the total number of Biafran refugee children cared for in camps by the Red Cross is Wright (a Frenchwoman with an amazing Irish accent when she speaks English), who is seen in the film (small woman in dark blue dress and folder under he arm) and is staffed by six Biafran teachers (also seen), three Canadian nurses (one, with red hair and white coverall is seen talking to Mrs. Wright) and 11 Ivorian general helpers (car drivers, meal servers, et al). Although there are still some vestiges of kwashiokor at the camp, no child is actually ill and the infirmary is empty. Only one class -- the infants' -- is crowded but not by much. As part of their studies the children are learning french (note blackboard in film).

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    Film ID:
    Media URN:
    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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    HD Format:
    Available on request
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