The start of the rainy season in Liberia will bring an end to a Red Cross airlift of grain and powdered milk for starving nomads in an area where the rainy season might not come at all.
GV & PAN Hercules aircraft landing as Red Cross man looks on
GV Hercules unloading
SV Pallet loaded with grain sacks down ramp
CU Red Cross badge PULL BACK man
SV Red Cross volunteers carrying grain sacks (2 shots)
GV Volunteers stacking sacks
GV & PAN Piles of grain sacks
GV People at well
SV Girl washes baby brother
GV PAN Red Cross landrover and supply lorry past
GV Travelling shot through brush
LV Huts PAN TO food distribution point
GV PAN Young children queue for food ration
SV Red Cross man signs ration book
CU PAN Ration books held in hand
CU Little child in crowd
SV Red Cross man with queue
SV Mixing milk power (2 shots)
GV Woman and child walk out of village with food ration
GV Camel PAN TO EXT clinic
SV INT Queue for treatment
SV Child with baby
CU Baby's swollen stomach
SV People waiting at table
GV PAN Man and woman leave on camel.
Initials BB/2150 RS/CD/BB/2237
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: The start of the rainy season in Liberia will bring an end to a Red Cross airlift of grain and powdered milk for starving nomads in an area where the rainy season might not come at all.
Every morning since February a Red Cross Hercules transport has taken off from Robert's airfield near Monrovia at 3 in the morning carrying 33 tons of food for the remote regions of Upper Volta, one of the six countries of the Sahel now in their eighth year of drought.
By 6 am the 'plane is quickly shedding its load on the specially made dirt runway at Gorom-Gorom before taking off for a second return trip each day.
Since February the single Hercules loaned by the Norwegian Air Force has brought in 1250 tons of flour. powdered milk and fish protein. With the airlift due to stop this week because of the weather, there is little but this store of food between the nomads and slow starvation.
Already they have lost most of their livestock. And everything is dry and dead in areas north of Gorom-Gorom which have not seen rain for between three and five years. Where there has been rain it has fallen in torrents, cut communications and evaporated too quickly to be much good.
Although the airlift organised by the League of Red Cross Societies has been interrupted, Red Cross work on the ground continues. Every day two lorries leave Gorom-Gorom for places to the north that are not even names on a map. There the nomads gather for their ration of flour and milk for the young, the old and the ill. There, too, small Red Cross clinics daily treat upto 200 patients who have come out of the dry scrub by foot or on camel, many of them suffering from malnutrition.
Yet many of the international relief agencies and the Sahel Governments are reported to agree that if further airlifts of food are required this year it will mean that their advance planning has failed. For airlifts are vastly expensive. Last year Belgian Air Force Hercules aircraft were using 19 tons of fuel to deliver one ton of medical supplies to northern Chad.
Much of the time since last year's costly airlift has been spent trying to organise an early delivery and storage of food. In Upper Volta, the European Development Fund and the French and United States aid programmes have spent large sums of money on building local grain storage depots and improving dirt roads. The work has not gone ahead as fast as expected. Many experts now believe another massive, expensive and wasteful airlift will be needed later this year to once again rescue at the last minute seven million people in remote areas of the Sahel who are on the verge of starvation.
SYNOPSIS: A Norwegian Hercules aircraft lands on a remote dirt runway at Gorom-Gorom in the north of Upper Volta. Every day for more than three months the aircraft has made two return trips from Liberia. Each time it brought thirty three tons of flour and powdered milk for nomads of the Sahel on the verge of starvation. The airlift has been organised by the League of Red Cross Societies.
The stockpiles of grain being built up mean hope for the people facing their eighth year of drought. But he airlift to this dry land now has to stop -- because the rainy season has come to Liberia.
Here at Gorom-Gorom there is water -- at the bottom of deep wells. Even enough for washing.
The further north, the less water there is.
Every day Red Cross lorries drive out into the parched brush to places that are not even names on a map. There the nomads gather for a ration to sustain life.
Some of these areas have not seen rain for up to five years.
Where the rains have fallen, they have come in torrents -- and evaporated just as quickly, leaving these children without food. So although the airlift has been interrupted, Red Cross distribution work on the ground continues.
In the six countries of the Sahel worst affected by the drought, more than seven million people are depending on food from the outside world for survival.
Experts are saying food stocks are not enough and are predicting further vastly expensive -- and some say wasteful -- airlifts this year. The United Nations estimate the Sahel will need six hundred and fifty thousand tons of food this year.
Animals and people have been weakened by poor diets and little medical help is available. At this Red Cross clinic a dressed has to cope with up to two hundred sick people a day.
Many suffer illness brought on by malnutrition.
Many young stomachs are swollen.
Epidemics of influenza and measles and even cholera have broken out.
Nomads come, collect meagre rations and basic medicine, and return to a shattered way of life and an uncertain future, as the world tries to cope with the worst drought of the century.