Unreported World - Autumn 2014 TX: 14 Nov 2014, Week 46
Tripoli Burning - Friday 14 November
In August a coalition of armed groups known as Libya Dawn stormed Libya’s capital, Tripoli and proclaimed a new government. Now rival groups aligned with the recognised government are counter attacking. The city’s so dangerous most foreigners have left, but reporter Seyi Rhodes and director Laura Warner shelter in the main fire station, and by filming the firemen at work gain a vivid snapshot of life in a disintegrating country.
The fire brigade is one of the few institutions that still operates in the country. Rhodes and Warner join the night shift at Tripoli’s main fire station. Station manager Abdul has had to get used to dealing with the plethora of militia groups and he’s become suspicious of the calls which come in.
As the team films Abdul gets a call from a militia commander asking his men to put out a road block of burning tyres because their enemies, a rival militia, are hiding behind the smoke. Abdul has no intention of allowing his men to be used as pawns in a battle, but saying no to the militia commander could be equally risky, so he has to tread very carefully.
Despite the country being a major oil producer, the price of fuel in Libya has rocketed, with people queuing for hours to fill up their petrol tanks. There’s also not enough fuel to keep the power station in the former capital running and the city’s inhabitants have therefore turned to petrol generators. Tripoli’s fire brigade is dealing with the inevitable results.
The Unreported World team accompanies the firemen on another call out. They arrive to find a supermarket ablaze with an oil tank inside the building that could explode at any minute. The blaze appears to have been started by a generator which has caught fire.
Later, on another call out, the team films the firemen as they tackle a blaze in a sauna, in which an oil tank threatens to explode at any minute. A lack of resources means the firemen are poorly equipped - despite the danger, they are fighting the flames wearing t-shirts. Their bravery is demonstrated by footage they show the team of a huge fire they battled at the Brega Oil depot which was caught in the middle of heavy fighting.
There are few non-Libyans remaining in Tripoli and distrust of outsiders runs high. At one blaze filmed by the Unreported World team films, the crowd becomes hostile and the owner attacks Rhodes with a brick so the team is forced to flee. Filming at another location – the ruined remains of former leader Colonel Gaddafi’s palace – the team is forced to make a quick exit as locals plot to hand them over to one of the rival militia groups.
Most wealthy Libyans left long ago and now even the migrant workers are leaving. Many of the younger firemen joined the service after the revolution. Instead of becoming part of a militia they wanted to remain neutral, and help the city. But now they are forced to cope as best they can as the bright new future promised by the British and French supported overthrow of the regime has soured. As one of firemen tells Rhodes:
“Democracy disappeared ages ago. There is no democracy. Qaddafi or the new guys it’s all the same. This revolution is a sham.”
The Kids of Murder High - Friday 7 November
Reporter Ade Adepitan and Director Nick Blakemore travel to Honduras to meet the inspirational Head Teacher who is battling to give his pupils the best chance of survival in one of the most dangerous places on earth.
San Pedro Sula has the highest murder rate in the world. Two notorious gangs - Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 - are fighting for control of the city. The only way out for many families is to attempt the dangerous route into the US. In just four months in the run up to Unreported World’s visit, 2,500 unaccompanied children from the city have been arrested crossing illegally into the United States.
Adepitan and Blakemore are in Chamelecon, at the centre of the gang battle. They are there to meet Hector - an extraordinary Head Teacher trying to convince local kids that education is the way to a better future, rather than risking their lives with the people smugglers.
Hector’s school - called Caminado por La Paz or “Walking for Peace” is special. Not just because Hector is determined to turn out graduates but also because it’s one of the only schools to remain open in the face of the gangs. Unlike other schools which have seen closures or been abandoned, it has kept its doors open no matter how bad the violence gets.
Only ten per cent of Honduras’s poorest kids get through school. Some drop out because of poverty and other economic problems, but one of the largest causes is pressure to join gangs and the violence that surrounds the pupils’ lives.
The Unreported World team meets one pupil, Roberto. He lives at home with his mum and six brothers and sisters. He tells Adepitan that the gangs pressure kids to join and kill them if they refuse. Eight teenagers were recently executed just a few streets away and his cousin was recently murdered. When he’s not attending school, he spends his life inside to hide from the gangs. Roberto tried to escape to America with his mum Marta, paying US$10,000 but only made it to Mexico before they were caught and bussed home.
The team also meets 14-year-old pupil Yolenny and her parents. They had been thinking about leaving for the US but for now have decided against it. Yolenny’s feeling confident about her grades getting into senior school next term.
But there’s a problem. The only senior school still open is on rival gang territory which makes it impossible for Yolenny, and others, to travel there to study. However, Hector has a plan. He’s trying to raise funds to build a new senior school in the area so his pupils can continue their education.
Hector is risking his life to transform the lives of these kids. He hopes that rather than joining the exodus of illegal immigrants to America they’ll stay and transform their violent neighbourhood and Honduras itself.
India's Electric Dream - Friday 31 October
Reporter Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Director Hugo Ward travel to India where the government’s drive to help the country’s development through widespread electrification is pitting villagers who want the benefits of electricity against campaigners who are worried about the environmental impact of vast open-cast mines on the forests which provide a livelihood and food to tribal peoples.
More than a third of India doesn’t have electricity – the equivalent of six times the population of Britain. The new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has pledged to have electricity in every village within five years, which means a new generation of power stations and an unprecedented push for coal.
India has the fifth largest coal deposits in the world but currently most is not mined, so it is forced to import a third of its coal from overseas. Nearly half of its 100 coal-fired electricity stations have critically low reserves. While the western world scales back its carbon output and climate change campaigners seek to get the developing world to do the same, the Indian government’s plan is to double the country’s use of coal in the next twenty years.
The team visits the Mahan Forest in the Singruali basin. Villages here are untouched by the modern world, but they’re sitting on a vast reserve of coal – which is the target of the newly formed Mahan Coal Corporation which wants to mine in the forest to supply their newly built power stations.
Guru-Murthy meets CEO Ramakant Tiwari who takes him to one of the thirteen mines already operating in the area. It’s a vast – 4km long open cast mine in the forest. He’s trying to persuade the local villagers, who have the power to block the company’s plans, to vote in favour of the mine.
The benefits of the mines are clear in the nearby village of Jeer, which is about to be connected to electricity. One local, Chotelal, tells Guru-Murthy that with the aid of an electric pump he will be able to irrigate his fields better and grow far more crops and his kids will be able to study at night.
But the price is the destruction of areas of forest. Most of the people here are tribal and depend on it. Guru-Murthy talks to Akshay, a local Greenpeace activist who is coordinating the fight against Mahan Coal by helping to organize protests and helping villagers understand their legal rights. He is in favour of development but concerned about the impact of the mine. “How can you take away someone's livelihood and call it development?” he says.
Singrauli district is the third most polluted place in India – due to the emissions from the power plants and dust from the coal mines – and Akshay claims that as well as causing environmental damage it’s having serious health effects.
The Unreported World team visits a school in Chilika Daad, a town which sits between another mine and a power station. The Head teacher tells Guru-Murthy that his pupils suffer from coughs and fevers and find it hard to breathe when the air is filled with ash. On the day the team visits, 70 out of the 209 pupils are off sick. Another activist claims that the company who developed the power station promised the villagers houses and schools – which have never materialized.
Akshay and Choetal’s stories illustrate India’s dilemma. By 2028 its population is set to exceed China’s but its economy isn’t keeping up. Producing an abundance of energy is key to competing on a global scale but it is causing huge amounts of tension between different visions of development.
Shortly after filming India's Supreme Court dealt the mining companies a massive blow - scrapping all new coal allocations and starting the process again. The Mahan Forest is safe for now, but the battle to electrify India goes on.
Reporter: Krishnan Guru-Murthy
Director: Hugo Ward
Siberia's Next Supermodels - Friday 24 October
Reporter Marcel Theroux and Director Billy Dosanjh meet some of the thousands of young Russian models hoping for a career in fashion. Demand from the Far East is driving the search for new models and the Unreported World team follow the trail - from scouting in shopping malls in Siberia to attending casting calls in China – where the work is a lot harder than they’d hoped.
The Unreported World team travels to Lake Baikal in Siberia, 4,000km from Moscow and a world away from any fashion capital. Across Siberia, demand from countries like China and Japan is driving the search for new models and this part of Russia is home to scores of fashion scouts and model agencies.
Theroux follows Alyona Belousova, who runs one modelling school and agency in Irkutsk. Four or five times a week, she scouts the city for new faces. Once she’s spotted a potential model, the next step is a test shoot. Alyona has high hopes for one girl she’s found - 15-year-old Paula. Paula’s parents are resisting sending her abroad but Alyona thinks she could eventually make it in the demanding European market. Some of Alyona’s signings have worked with fashion’s biggest names in Europe she says, but for now, China is her most important market.
One of those girls who has just got a professional contract in Beijing is Lida. Theroux and Dosanjh visit her and her mother in their village outside Irkutsk where they grow vegetables on an allotment. “I’m nervous,” Lida tells Theroux. “It’s scary to travel to another country without knowing the language without any family support.”
To see what Lida and the other young models face, the Unreported World team travels to Shanghai. For the models who have come here with dreams of glamour and stardom – of “not getting out of bed for less than £10,000” - Theroux reveals a rather different wake up call. The reality can be busloads of hundreds of models driven round the city from casting to casting. Each call Unreported World sees is packed with tall, thin, confused young Russians.
In a break between castings, Theroux and Dosanjh go to see where some of the models live. It’s a tiny apartment on the eighth floor, with two girls sharing each bedroom and clothes drying on the balcony.
The models tell Unreported World that many of them have to pay their agencies for their plane tickets, rent, transport and living expenses. If they don’t get any work, they’ll be stuck in debt to the agency. Even the success stories, like one model the team meets - Yana - says she’s only made £600 in two months after paying her debts and her agents’ commissions.
Another model, Kristina, tells Theroux that in three weeks she’s had only two modelling jobs: an underwear show and a catalogue. But she says, like many other models, she’s found another way to earn money in the evenings.
Kristina is paid to dance and drink at a nightclub, whether she feels like it or not. Many of her friends are doing the same. They spend their nights, like their days, selling an image of European glamour to China’s newly rich. She’ll be back home at 3am and up for work at six.
It’s an exhausting life and Theroux wonders how long they can keep it up. Few will ever make money from their work here, and some will go home in debt. But as long as the glamour of a career in fashion remains and the scouts and agencies keep up their work, it seems the allure of becoming Siberia’s next supermodel will keep drawing young girls into the industry.
Reporter: Marcel Theroux
Director: Billy Dosanjh
The Invisible People - Friday 10 October
Producer David Fuller and new Reporter Giles Duley, a photographer, who three years ago lost his legs and an arm to a landmine in Afghanistan ,travel to Lebanon to reveal the plight of some of the most vulnerable refugees fleeing the war in Syria - disabled people, many of them children. Talking to the children, their families and the organisations trying to help them, Unreported World reveals how both they and the Lebanese government are struggling to cope as the crisis worsens.
An estimated one-and-a-half million people have fled the fighting in Syria in search of peace in Lebanon and refugees now make up a quarter of the population there. The government has been unwilling to allow permanent camps to be built as it is worried about the refugees destabilising the country. As a result many are living in hundreds of makeshift camps dotted across the landscape. One in five Syrian refugees has a disability and these camps are the least suitable place imaginable for them.
Duley and Fuller meet five year old Aya, who was born with Spina Bifida - a condition that has left her paralysed from the waist down. Her family used to live comfortably in Syria. Her mother Sihan was a teacher, father Ayman ran a soap factory. But now they live in a tent they built themselves, on waste ground next to a cement factory.
Aya’s disability made their escape that much harder and despite being away from the conflict, life is still incredibly difficult for them in Lebanon. In Syria she saw a doctor every two weeks. But here only emergency care is available free to refugees and Aya doesn’t qualify for any further medical help. The family receive UN food coupons of US$140 a month but that doesn’t cover the basics and they’re getting into debt. Aya’s father desperately wants to find a job but here there are too many refugees and not enough work. Now he’s worried they might be forced into a decision they dread: to have Aya and her brothers and sisters adopted.
The Unreported World team also accompanies staff from the charity Handicap International as they visit another disabled refugee – 18-year-old Safa. Three years ago in Syria, Safa’s heart stopped after an electric shock. The doctors revived her, but by then she was brain damaged. To help her breathe, she was given a tracheotomy but now, like Aya, she’s living in a tent where there’s no proper sanitation, making it almost impossible to keep the tracheotomy equipment clean.
The international community has donated over US$500m to Lebanon this year – nearly 10 million of which came from the UK. But the UNHCR says it needs three times as much to cope and has been forced to prioritise primary care, leaving many disabled refugees with little treatment or adequate shelter.
As a consequence some refugees have begun to do what they can to help. Duley and Fuller meet Ahmed, who lost both his legs after a rocket attack in Syria. Despite his injuries Ahmed is working as a volunteer with the UN - helping other disabled refugees. Every day he travels out to visit people in the neighbourhood on a bike he adapted himself.
As winter approaches, the families Giles meets face further hardship and many more people are expected to need help. In the face of such adversity their resolution is an inspiration to Duley: “Being a full time carer is one of the most demanding jobs you can possibly imagine - especially for someone who needs 24-hour care. But to do it in these circumstances is for me beyond comprehension,” he says. Many simply want to go back home to rebuild their lives But with peace in Syria a distant prospect, there seems little hope of that any time soon.
Reporter: Giles DuleyDirector: David Fuller
Vietnam's Dog Snatchers - Friday 3 October, 7:30pm
Reporter Nelufar Hedayat and director Daniel Bogado travel to Vietnam to investigate how dog thieves have infiltrated the lucrative dog meat trade and are stealing thousands of pet dogs from family homes to meet demand. The crime wave has provoked outrage across the country and led to the mob killing of scores of dog thieves. Unreported World reveals disturbing evidence of how dogs are stolen, transported and slaughtered in an illegal trade which has shocked the nation.
The Vietnamese have a long tradition of eating dog meat, which is served in packed restaurants across the country. In one busy Ho Chi Minh City street market the Unreported World team films at least eight dog meat stalls. Live dogs are arriving all the time from suppliers, to be packed into small cages until they are slaughtered for customers.
Most dogs used to be trucked in from neighbouring Thailand, Cambodia and Laos but in recent years, animal rights groups have largely succeeded in closing down these routes. It’s led to a big increase in demand for dog meat from inside Vietnam and an opening for unscrupulous thieves targeting other people’s dogs.
The Unreported World team heads to Nghe Ann, a province under constant threat from dog thieves. One local man, Dang, tells Hedayat that keeps his pet in a cage to prevent it being stolen. Along his road all the families have lost dogs with almost 300 being stolen over the last few months.
The Unreported World team heads out on night patrol with Dang. The patrol seeks safety in numbers and their fear is justified. In another village, the team meets the family of 18-year-old Bau Huynh who was killed a few weeks beforehand by dog thieves. His family tell Hedayat that Bau was profoundly upset when thieves stole two dogs he had raised from puppies. Together with two other boys, he gave chase but the thieves fired a homemade stun gun at them, killing all three boys.
There’s no prison sentence for dog theft in Vietnam and officials have rejected tougher punishments for the crime, saying there isn’t enough room in Vietnam’s jails for all the dog thieves. So the rewards far outweigh the risks. On the outskirts of Hanoi Hedayat speaks to two dog thieves. One of them tells her that he’s stolen more than 3,000 dogs in the seven years he’s been doing it, earning up $100 a night from the dogs he catches.
But the risks are high for the thieves as well. The team visits the village of N-hi Trung, in an area of the country where 20 dog thieves have been reportedly killed in the past five years and many more have barely escaped with their lives. Hedayat talks to villagers who admit to beating two dog thieves to death though they tell her that they only intended to hurt them. Ten people were prosecuted for the murders though four of them have had their sentences suspended. One villager tells her that in 80 years he’s never seen such a large number of dog thieves.
Every day, trucks deliver more than seven tons of live dogs to Hanoi. The team visits a village in the north of the country which is one of the largest dog trading spots. The street is lined with holding pens, each with up to 200 dogs inside. The dogs are sold by weight and the team films as the animals are force-feed through feeding tubes to increase their value before being packed into incredibly cramped crates. At busy times, the holding houses on this street process around 2,000 dogs in a single day.
Back in Hanoi the team visits a slaughterhouse specialising in dog. Owner Kieu Vu tells Hedayat that they slaughter up to 30 dogs a day. The dogs are kept in a cramped pit before being brought out and despatched quickly and - according to her husband - painlessly. There are rules for the slaughter of cattle, pigs and poultry in Vietnam but not for dogs. And the government has no plans to introduce any regulations. A previous proposal was abandoned when animal rights groups opposed it, saying it would legitimise the trade.
Animal rights groups are trying to convince the government to introduce at least basic rules about welfare and protection for animals, including dogs. The talks are at very early stages but because of the violence surrounding dog theft, people are starting to talk about the many problems of the dog meat trade and bring about changes. But without real punishment for dog thieves, and laws against animal cruelty, there’s no end in sight to the pain, for people or animals.
Reporter: Nelufar HedayatDirector: Daniel Bogado
Series Editors: Monica Garnsey & Suzanne Lavery
A Quicksilver Media production
Surviving Ebola - Friday 26 September, 7:30pm
Channel 4’s award winning foreign affairs strand returns for a new series with a hard-hitting film on the Ebola outbreak devastating Sierra Leone. The only television crew to spend two weeks embedded in field hospitals and quarantine units, reporter Shaunagh Connaire and director Wael Dabbous provide a unique view of what life is like for the health workers battling the virus and the families affected. The Unreported World team was in Sierra Leone at a critical phase in the summer when there was still a chance to contain the virus. In the time they were there though it was clear the battle to contain it was being lost.
The team films with Sebastian Stein, one of the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF/Doctors Without Borders) team at an emergency field hospital in Kailahun District in Eastern Sierra Leone. A nine-year-old patient has just died and Sebastian has to recover the highly infectious body and get it into the morgue – it’s the 78th victim so far in just this hospital. Shortly afterwards an ambulance arrives, carrying six more victims – all members of the same family.
Even in this hospital, Ebola is killing 70 per cent of those it infects. Because so few people who go to the hospital ever return, victims are hiding in their homes and infecting others. The only way to contain Ebola is to isolate the infected and bring them to the hospital.
The team travels with Manjo Lamin from one of the country’s disease surveillance teams to another contaminated village. It’s his job to find any victims and get them to the hospital. Two weeks previously Manjo himself went through a terrifying ordeal when he was quarantined with suspected Ebola. It turned out to be a false alarm and now he’s returned to work.
He and the team used to wear protective clothing but the suits terrified the villagers who ran, hid and sometimes even attacked them. Now they wear normal clothes and rely on keeping their distance from everyone they meet.
In the village they find 25-year-old mother of four Kadiatu Jusu. She’s clearly unwell and it’s quickly apparent that she’s infected with Ebola. The team notes the names of everyone she’s been in contact with, including her husband and children. Kadiatu gets into the ambulance while her husband and sons can’t risk touching her to say goodbye.
Two hours later, she’s back at the hospital where the medical team quickly begin to treat her. Although there are no known cures for Ebola, sometimes the body can fight it off – especially if the victim can stay hydrated.
Hospital administrator Anja Wolz tells Connaire that the government and the international community were slow to react to the virus when it initially appeared and medical staff are still severely under-resourced. The surveillance team has only four vehicles to monitor the half million people living at the centre of the outbreak.
Meanwhile Kadiatu’s symptoms are growing worse and the hearse that doubles as an ambulance arrives, containing her husband Fallah. He’s left their four children in the village and joins his wife in the isolation ward.
Ebola is causing panic and unrest in Sierra Leone. In nearby Kenema – the third largest town the country – rumours about the virus have brought people onto the streets. A story is going round that Ebola is a hoax; a trick devised by doctors to steal people’s blood. The rioters are trying to break down the hospital gates, and rescue the patients inside which would be an absolute catastrophe. Riot police are trying to contain them.
With both Fallah and Kadiatu in the hospital, Manjo returns to their village. To everyone’s relief their four sons are healthy and record a message for their parents. Back at the hospital, against the odds, Kadiatu is feeling better and is able to watch the message. Fallah, however, is deteriorating.
This Ebola outbreak has claimed nearly 2000 lives. The World Health Organization warns the virus could ultimately infect more than 20,000 people. What’s sure is that without the bravery and determination of those battling the virus, the figures would be far, far higher.
Reporter: Shaunagh ConnaireDirector: Wael Dabbous
Series Editors: Monica Garnsey & Suzanne Lavery
Senegal: Africa's Drug Scandal - Friday 30 May, 7:30pm
Cancer now kills more people in Africa than malaria, HIV/ Aids and tuberculosis combined. Reporter Krishnan Guru-Murthy and director Daniel Bogado travel to Senegal to reveal how patients across the continent are being deprived of the single most important drug for relieving the pain of cancer – morphine – despite governments having the funds to purchase supplies.
Senegal is one of Africa’s most stable democracies, with the second largest economy in West Africa. As the country develops, and people live longer lives, cancer rates are surging. It’s a problem across the developing world.
The children’s cancer unit in Dantec Hospital in Dakar is the only unit of its kind in the country and it’s fighting a growing health crisis. Professor Claude Moreira tells Guru-Murthy that the hospital can treat many types of cancer, with success rates close to those of the West. But, he explains, one drug absolutely critical to caring for his patients, just like those patients in the West, is very difficult to get hold of.
Morphine is a basic mainstay for the treatment of pain. However, in Senegal, morphine is a source of fear and suspicion. Many politicians are afraid medical stocks could be stolen and sold to drug addicts as heroin. So the authorities allow only a very small amount of morphine into the country each year: far less than is needed to deal with the growing number of cancer victims; let alone all of the other medical conditions that need pain-relief medication.
Four-year-old Abdurahmane has retinal cancer. He’s been in the hospital for three months, receiving chemotherapy, which has shrunk the tumour in his eye. He is being treated with morphine. When stocks are low, the hospital pharmacy gives children priority, but even in this specialist unit they sometimes run out.
If getting access to morphine is difficult in Dakar, outside the capital it’s virtually impossible. The team travels to the main hospital in Senegal’s second city, Touba. Mactar, who’s 25, has been diagnosed with advanced liver cancer. He’s in great pain but has only been given tramadol, which is stronger than paracetemol but much weaker than morphine
Mactar’s case is typical. Without morphine, cancer patients spend their last days in agony. There are tens of thousands of people in Senegal who need relief for severe pain. But the government only orders enough morphine to treat a few hundred patients a year.
Annette Seck Ndiaye, the head of the government agency that regulates the supply of the country’s morphine, tells Guru-Murthy: ‘There is no problem. The problem is having that information. It's not only about saying that we need more, because the use of morphine must be justified.’ But the problem is that to estimate the amount of morphine the country needs, the National Pharmacy looks at the number of prescriptions written by doctors. And most doctors in Senegal don’t write morphine prescriptions, because they know it isn’t available.
Back in Dantec Hospital, the team meets Aminata, 24, who has non-Hodgkins lymphoma and is undergoing a course of chemotherapy. She is in great pain but has been told the hospital has run out of morphine. Guru-Murthy goes to the pharmacy to find out when they expect the next batch in, and is astonished to find that a whole consignment arrived six days beforehand. Aminata’s doctor tells him that she never wrote a prescription for it because nobody told her it was available. Guru-Murthy returns to tell Aminata the good news, but finds that her mother Kouba has taken her desperately sick daughter back home, an 11-hour drive away.
The scandalous shortage of morphine in Senegal is being repeated across the developing world and affects millions. It is needless cruelty, reflects Guru-Murthy. But without the political will to change, vulnerable people remain deprived of humane treatment and an end to life free of pain.
Reporter: Krishnan Guru-Murthy
Director: Daniel Bogado
Jamaica's Underground Gays - Friday 23 May, 7:30pm
In an eye-opening edition, Reporter Ade Adepitan and director Andrew Carter travel to Kingston to investigate the growth of homophobic attacks and meet the gay and transgender group who’ve ended up living in a storm drain where they suffer shocking violence, attacks and insults, because of their sexuality.
Jamaica has a reputation for intolerance of homosexuality. Male gay sex is punishable by 10 years’ hard labour and violent hostility is entrenched in the island’s culture. Unreported World meets one group of gay and transgender people who are now living in a gully, which is usually designed to carry floodwater and rubbish from the city.
It’s hot, crowded, infested and filthy. But it’s the only place these twenty-five people are able to call home. There are no facilities: cooking and washing-up are done in the gutter. Water comes from a broken pipe under a road bridge. And it’s not in a poor part of town, but in the middle of New Kingston, the capital’s business district.
Most homosexuals in Jamaica work hard to hide their sexuality. Those who are openly ‘out’ are in the firing line. The team meets 21-year-old Krissy who was born male but believes her true gender is female. She says she didn’t feel safe expressing this at home - and so she’s lived on the streets on and off since she was 12. Apart from her sister, she hasn’t seen most of her family for years.
Krissy tells Adepitan that together with other homeless gay and transgender friends, she initially lived in a squat. But under pressure from the neighbours, the site’s owner chased the group away and levelled the place. They went from squat to squat, being moved on each time by police or landlords - and eventually ended up at the gully.
Many of those living in the gully didn’t finish school, and without an address it’s difficult to get a job. Sachaberry, who has been homeless for the last two years, says the only way she can make a living is by selling her body. But it’s a very risky business. She tells Adepitan that one night she went to meet a client and was ambushed by a gang. She suffered multiple stabbings and only just survived.
It’s not only outside the gully that the group faces violent attacks. Adepitan and Carter are filming as thousands of people leaving the final of the national athletics championships at the nearby stadium pass by the gully. Shouting insults and death threats, some of them start throwing stones and rocks at the group. Eventually a police riot squad turns up to disperse the crowd, but bizarrely one officer claims that it is the group of gay men and women who have been stoning the crowd
The team meets the local district councillor who says that that local residents have complained that people from the gully climb into their back yards to commit theft, have sex with clients and use them as a toilet. She says the residents want them moved on, and tells the group: “Jamaica is homophobic. Jamaica isn’t [like a] foreign [country]. So you can’t come to Jamaica and dress up like a drag queen.
Adepitan talks to the Deputy Superintendent of police. He says he hasn’t got anything against homosexuals, he treats everybody equally, but he hopes “the rain water will fill the gully and wash them away.”
But there is one guardian angel looking out for the gully dwellers. Unreported World meets 76-year-old human rights activist Yvonne McCalla-Sobers, who makes twice-weekly food drops in the park opposite the gully. She also helps out with legal and health problems, and is trying to persuade the authorities to find somewhere suitable for them to live. “I would be the last to speak about angels but I am simply saying that for anybody’s behaviour there are reasons,” she tells Adepitan. “What we need to have is acknowledgement of where the behaviour is dysfunctional and something put in place to solve that. It’s not enough to say that essentially they need to be gotten rid of.”
Reporter: Ade Adepitan
Director: Andrew Carter
Lebanon: Neighbours at War - Friday 16 May, 7:30pm
Reporter Krishnan Guru-Murthy and director Adam Pletts manage to film on both sides of the lines in the Lebanese city of Tripoli, where Sunni Muslim fighters are besieging an Alawite neighbourhood in a conflict mirroring that happening in Syria. Guru Murthy uncovers a vicious, low-level war of sniping, assassinations and kneecappings, and meets commanders and gunmen who revel in killing their neighbours, and whose hate has taken over their lives.
The Unreported World team visits the house of one of the local Sunni commanders, Abu Ali, who used to run a snooker hall. Together with his 30 fighters, Ali monitors the Alawite houses in Tripoli’s Jabal Mohsen enclave, located on the hill above the Bab al Tabbaneh Sunni district of the city.
Also at the house is one of Abu Ali's henchmen - a man whose speciality is kneecapping those Alawites who have to venture from their neighbourhood into the city centre. He tells Guru-Murthy that he has so far kneecapped around 45 people and is planning to shoot more in the coming days.
The Alawites regularly return fire into the Sunni district. In the streets around Ali’s house, keeping out of sight of the Alawite guns is part of daily life, with sniper curtains hanging across side streets to block the view.
The Unreported World team crosses to the other side of the frontline, to meet Kamal Sana, a former taxi driver. He and his friends are remembering a neighbour who was shot by a sniper a few days before.
Inside Kamal’s home the windows of his children’s bedroom have been blown in by a mortar landing outside. Kamal’s wife, Rola, tells Guru-Murthy that over the last three years, living here has become terrifying. But this is their family home and they don’t want to leave.
Kamal tells the team about the automatic weapons he keeps at home and says his fighters use Kalashnikovs, M-16s and Belgian Vals, - “anything it takes” - but he's not willing to discuss where the weapons come from.
Kamal’s neighbour, Ali Assir, tells Guru-Murthy that he used to be a taxi driver until he was dragged out of his car in Tripoli and shot thirteen times, possibly by one of the gunmen the Unreported World team filmed earlier. He recounts how six weeks after he was attacked, gunmen fired at his house, killing his wife.
Back in the Sunni district, the team meets Abu Ali’s wife, Hilal, a Sunni Muslim from Syria, who strongly supports the rebels fighting the Assad regime. Alongside her is their eleven year old son Ali. He says that when he grows up he wants to fire weapons into Jabal Mohsen.
Hilal tells Guru-Murthy that she hopes Ali will soon be old enough to go to Syria to fight. She doesn't fear him dying in the conflict, saying: "He’s just like any other, just like the others who go there and die."
At Abu Ali’s headquarters, the gunmen are celebrating. An Alawite working as a hospital receptionist in the city centre has just been shot in the legs - possibly by one of Ali's accomplices. It’s dangerous for Alawites to be treated in the city, so he has been taken to a hospital outside Tripoli.
The Unreported World team tracks him down, and finds him lying alongside another Alawite man who has also just been kneecapped by Sunni gunmen. "We are all family, all brothers. There’s no difference between one person and another. There are many decent people but a very small group is dragging down the whole area," he tells Unreported World.
Reporter: Krishnan Guru Murthy
Director: Adam Pletts
The Cursed Twins - Friday 9 May, 7:30pm
Unreported World travels to a remote area of Madagascar, where the dead make the rules. A set of taboos, handed down from long dead ancestors controls what you eat, when you work and every aspect of how you behave. Reporter Kiki King and Director David Fuller visit the town of Mananjary, on the isolated East coast, to reveal how one taboo against twins leads to children being abandoned and mothers becoming outcasts. They meet the Mayor campaigning to change the custom and find families new homes and the medics who care for abandoned newborns.
No-one is quite sure how the taboo against twins, and the belief they bring bad luck arose, but most stories talk about an ancient battle which caused a tribe to flee their village. One mother forgot one of her twins and when the villagers returned to save it, they were all massacred. The tribe’s elders then declared it taboo to raise twins.
King and Fuller meet Ursula, the mother of two twins, Giovanni and Venua. She says that when they were born her husband told her to abandon them and refused to recognise them legally. Ursula refused to give them up and moved in with her sister and mother. Then, her mother got sick and died. She tells King that her family and neighbours blamed the death on the twins: “When my mother fell ill and died everyone said that her death was her punishment because she didn’t respect her culture - the ancestors.”
The Unreported World team also meets Carolin, who is considered especially unlucky as she has given birth to three sets of twins. She tells King that she has had to move house around thirty times due to the taboo because her neighbours feared the twins. Now, she’s forced to live in a tiny tent and is struggling to feed her family. Living alongside her, in what amounts to a small refugee camp for twins, are six other families who have all had to flee their villages.
The team visit the nearby CATJA orphanage. It’s full of twins, but none of them are orphans - their parents are alive and living nearby. The centre is funded by a French charity - and run by Julie Rasoarimanana. It is currently home to a dozen sets of twins, but hundreds have passed through over the years.
While the team are there, an abandoned newborn twin is brought in. Nobody knows who she belongs to – only the village that she comes from. King and Fuller set out to the village to find out more. They find the baby’s mother, Cecile, back in the fields, just a week after giving birth. And, they meet the baby’s father, Adreobert, who says they were so afraid of the taboo that they gave up their daughter.
Adreobert tells King that many younger people want the taboo lifted, but the power lies with the tribal chiefs. They believe that the chiefs can communicate with the ancestors and could ask them to lift the taboo. The chiefs live deeper in the bush and when the Unreported World team travels to meet them, one tells King: “As long as we are still alive we are not going to dilute our ancestral culture…we have a saying - that anyone who keeps twins has no soul.”
Back at the orphanage, the newly arrived girl has been given a name, Nyavo, which means “to rise”. It’s rare for twins to be adopted locally but Juliet a school teacher from Mananjary, has come forward to adopt the tiny baby. Most of the twins who pass through the CATJA centre are adopted by parents in France. The younger tribespeople want the custom to change so that no more twins are forced to leave their home country. Juliet hopes that by the time Nyavo is old enough to understand, the twin taboo will belong only to the ancestors.
Reporter: Kiki King
Director: David Fuller
Carjack City - Friday 2 May, 7:30pm
Reporter Marcel Theroux and Director James Brabazon travel to South Africa, a country where at least thirty vehicles are carjacked every day. The country’s cars are routinely fitted with satellite trackers, so that if they are carjacked by thieves an armed response unit can track them.
The Unreported World team is in the country’s capital, Pretoria, a city where this type of crime is acute. They are with Andries Hlongwane - who works for a private security firm– following him as he chases the gunmen and recovers stolen cars. It’s dangerous work for a private security industry that now accounts for seven per cent of all jobs in South Africa.
Theroux and Brabazon begin the film in hot pursuit of a carjacked vehicle. Andries and his partner find it abandoned, but they keep their guns drawn - there’s a good chance the carjackers are still watching to see if anyone has followed the car’s satellite tracker.
The team waits for police officers to arrive to help out, but suddenly across the road they hear the cries of a woman being robbed. Andries races to her aid, his gun drawn, and chases of the robbers.
A few minutes later a passing driver warns the team he’s just driven through a gang of armed carjackers at a junction less than 100 yards away. The police arrive and almost immediately there’s a fusillade of shots. Just five minutes from the South African parliament, the carjackers have no compunction about firing automatic weapons to make good their escape.
Next Andries scrambles into action to track down a hijacked delivery van. He finds it abandoned in a poor township. The shocked driver tells Theroux he’s convinced the gunmen were going murder him The hijackers eventually fled with the equivalent of around £30 in cash and a few loaves of bread. The police turn up to investigate, but locals tell Theroux it’s a rarity to see the police in this township.
The lack of police protection in many areas is one reason that explains the 400,000 private security guards in South Africa – more than the whole of the country’s police and armed forces combined.
Andries has a young family and with a quarter of the population out of work, he risks his life for £1.25 an hour. He’s concerned that criminals he grew up with, and who still live in the same township as him, may target his family. Theroux follows him as he makes the difficult decision to move. As a result he’s forced to move his family into a tiny outhouse in the garden of a house in a more affluent suburb.
The Unreported World team arranges to meet a gang of carjackers who steal vehicles in the area Andries patrols. They say that they steal to order and export the cars to other African countries. They tell Theroux that they carry guns, baseball bats and knives – and if anyone tries to stop them, they often disable them with two shots to the stomach.
Reporter: Marcel Theroux
Director: James Brabazon
Kickboxing Kids - Friday 25 April, 7:30pm
This powerful edition of Unreported World documents the lives of Thai children as young as seven who fight in the brutal sport of Muay Thai, knocking out their opponents with elbows, knees and feet, as well as fists. It can leave the kids brain-damaged, but adult gambling on these unpredictable fights is big business, and their families put enormous pressure on the kids to fight and win. The film records one child as he runs miles inside a rubber suit in 30-degree heat to make the weight for his fight.
Reporter Mary-Ann Ochota and director Daniel Bogado follow 11-year old Nat Thanarak, one of the best child boxers in the North of the country. He is preparing for the biggest match of his career so far, against a 12- year old champion from another province. Nat will get a fee for the fight, but his chance of earning big money comes from gambling. His whole village has raised a stake to bet on him. If Nat wins, he’ll get a cut.
There are more than 30,000 professional child fighters taking part in Muay Thai, which is considered one of the toughest martial arts in the world. Although they sometimes fight for a fee of as little as £4, their winnings can make them breadwinners for their families and local heroes in their villages.
Nat trains seven days a week, four hours a day, before and after school. As well as getting fit for the fight, he also needs to make the weight for his category. And to do this, he needs to shed three kilos – ten per cent of his body weight – over the next week. He dresses in a rubber sweat suit designed to help him lose water while he runs 8km in temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius.
Nat’s mother works as a nanny in Bangkok, sending home money when she can, but it’s not enough to support the family. Nat’s dad doesn’t have a job and tells Ochota that if his son wasn’t boxing, he would have to find work in Bangkok, leaving Nat to live with their grandparents.
While Nat trains, the team films some of the fights held every night of the week across Thailand, and see children are knocked out and badly concussed. In a Bangkok hospital they meet Professor Jiraporn Laothamatas, a specialist studying child boxers. She says brain scans show kids can suffer similar brain trauma to victims of traffic accidents, which can lead to lower intelligence and dementia.
The team follows Nat as he meets Son Nongkhai, a boxing businessman who has helped arrange the fight and has put up a financial guarantee that Nat will make his target weight. Despite Nat training for 12 hours in the rubber suit, without food, he’s still over 25kg. Son Nongkhai puts him in the rubber suit in his pickup truck, in the midday sun, with all the windows closed, in the hope he’ll sweat it out.
Nat’s opponent, Nong Em arrives for the big fight. Just as with Nat, Em’s whole village have banded together to gamble on him. As Nat is still overweight it looks like he’ll have to forfeit the match, and the money; but, to everyone’s surprise, Nong Em is also overweight. With so much gambling money at stake, both sides cut a deal to let the match go ahead.... and Ochota follows it to its brutal end.
Reporter: Mary-Ann Ochota
Director: Daniel Bogado
Dancing in the Dangerzone - Friday 18 April, 7:30pm
Reporter Evan Williams and director Marcel Mettelsiefen travel to Baghdad to meet the extraordinary young dancers and musicians at Iraq’s only music and ballet school, who are battling to keep their art alive against the rising tide of sectarian violence in the city
It’s the run up to the elections at the end of April and up to 300 people are being killed in Baghdad every week by car bombs and assassinations.
But, hidden away from the violence, the school is a refuge of culture and artistic expression. 162 students from across the city attend and ranging from six to 17 years old, they are chosen for their artistic ability for music and dance. The school’s star student is 17-year-old Leezan Salam, who has studied there for ten years and is just two months from graduation. “When you enter the school you enter a place of hope and peace. Outside you hear the sounds of car bombs and gunfire. Inside the school, everything is beautiful,” she tells Williams.
Pianist Mohammed Ramsey is one of Leezan’s best friends and they are both on the brink of the biggest decision of their lives: what to do when they leave the school. Leezan will have to leave Iraq if she wants to continue her ballet. Mohammed’s future as a piano player is uncertain.
Every day they, like the rest of the pupils, risk their lives by crossing Baghdad to reach the school. Just six weeks ago Leezan and Mohammed’s best friend – musician Ali Nouri - was killed by a bomb as he went home from school. He used to take Leezan home every day until one day she heard a bomb had gone off. “I called Ali’s phone and a stranger picked it up,” she tells Williams.”I said “Who is this?” The guy said “if you know this person call his family. Please. Call the family and tell them he’s dead’...
As Williams talks to Thena Ibrahim, the School Registrar, they are interrupted by a chilling reminder of the violence outside. Seven car bombs have just been detonated across the city leaving at least 20 people dead and 70 injured
The Unreported World team travels to a Sunni neighbourhood to meet Leezan’s family. Her mother is ethnically Kurdish and Shia her father Sunni. Her parents say they had wanted to move to northern Iraq to escape the sectarian violence. But Leezan didn't want to go as it meant giving up her ballet.
Then they reveal another problem. Increasing religious extremism means they don’t tell their neighbours that Leezan is studying ballet. “They say that ballet dancing is another word for seduction and other words I can’t say,” says Leezan’s mother. Her father says:“I heard one of the officials of the Ministry of Education said he turns his face to the other way when he passes the ballet school.” Her mother adds: “He thinks the school is a sin so everything about it is prohibited.”
The team also visits Mohammed’s family in his Sunni area of the capital. He tells Williams that Ali was a Shia and was buried in Najaf, one of the holiest Shia sites. As a result, it’s too dangerous for Mohammed to visit his grave. Mohammed’s father says that with both Sunni and Shia militia now banning music, Mohammed has to be careful who he tells that he plays piano.
Wassan, one of the school’s ballet teachers is in the same position. “I cannot declare that I am a ballet teacher,” she tells Williams. “It is very difficult to leave from work knowing that somebody might come and blow up the school, killing us and claiming that this is prohibited.”
With many girls dropping out, the school’s last hope of a fully fledged graduate is Leezan. She’s determined to carry on, but realistic about her prospects. “Our political leaders aren’t cultured enough in The Arts. Therefore, surely they won’t support us to improve or reach the next level. It’s impossible,” she tells Williams. Wassan is equally bleak about Leezan’s ability to continue ballet if she stays in Iraq: “There’s no future. It’s over for her. She will continue her academic studies normally and that’s it. There is no future for her in ballet.”
Reporter: Evan Williams
Director: Marcel Mettelsiefen
The World's Dirtiest River - Friday 11 April, 7:30pm
Channel 4’s critically acclaimed, award winning world affairs strand returns with a startling film from the Indonesian island of Java - home to the planet’s most polluted river and a textile industry supplying some of the world’s biggest fashion brands.
Reporter Seyi Rhodes and Director Hugo Ward expose the extraordinary amount of untreated toxic waste from the textile factories, non-degradable plastics, household rubbish, dead animals and fish and human effluent blanketing the Citarum river, which 35 million people rely on for drinking, cooking and washing.
The team accompanies former fisherman Herman and his son as they push their boat through rubbish which is so thick that they can’t see the surface of the river. Forty years ago Herman made a good living from fishing. Now, with 60 per cent of the fish species wiped out as the river is starved of oxygen and polluted with toxic waste, he is after another catch – plastic which can be re-cycled.
Thirty miles upstream, the river passes through Majalaya - a major industrial area and home to a booming textiles industry. The Unreported World team sees how water from the Citarum is channelled through one village, polluting the drinking wells and communal washing areas. One man tells Rhodes that he has to use a cloth to filter the water as it irritates his skin: “On Sundays the water is a little bit better, less murky. Other days it turns green, yellow, red, and black,” he says.
The village children are clearly suffering from contact with the water, which is contaminated not only with the textile waste, but also human excrement - as the channels serve as both sewer and bathroom. One local doctor says around 60 per cent of local children have skin infections like impetigo as a result.
And this isn’t the only health hazard. The Unreported World team enlists local scientist Dr Sunardi to test samples from the village and the river. The results are seriously concerning: all the water sources are contaminated with heavy metals – including the drinking well, which has mercury levels nearly four times the recommended safe level. Dr Sunardi tells Rhodes that the villagers, and particularly the children, who drink the water are at risk of cancer and mental and physical retardation.
The villagers are well aware of the problems. But they are conflicted. More than half of the adults in this region work in textile factories which are their only source of income. One villager says the factory he works in regularly dumps toxic waste directly into the river at night.
Indonesia’s Association of Textile Manufacturers says its 200 members on the Citarum treat their wastewater, but it accepts that hundreds more textile factories - which don’t belong to their organisation - pour untreated waste into the river.
Unreported World interviews Indonesia’s Deputy Minister for the Environment, Arief Yuwomo. He tells Rhodes: “We have a few strategies in place and we hope we can reduce these problems. If factories are breaching these laws we will take enforcement action against them.” The government claims it has shut down a factory for illegally dumping chemical waste into the Citarum, but it wouldn’t disclose any details of the incident or name the factory.
Meanwhile, some of the villagers are forced to take their own action. They’ve decided to try to block one of the outlet pipes which is releasing toxic waste into the river, in the hope it floods the factory. It’s a dangerous operation, but for the villagers it seems the only way they will get their concerns noticed.
Reporter: Seyi Rhodes
Director: Hugo Ward
Series Editor: Suzanne Lavery
A Quicksilver Media production
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