13 Dec 2013

A picture of abject innocence and abandonment

It is several days since we made that left turn from the airport road. The one that swings you off from the terminal building dead ahead, into the visually unreal world of mass misery.

You have to keep saying to yourself they are only here out of sheer terror. Yet to be here is to sign your own life away.

Pre News refresh player – this is the default player for the C4 news site – please do not delete. Ziad

We walked past the place where all the light aircraft used by unscrupulous illegal game-hunters and possibly equally unscrupulous diamond men are parked.

Except now they have thousands of people camped all over them, wings, fuselage, wheels, tailplanes covered in people, clothing and blankets drying after last night’s storm.

But there is no shelter from the storm. If anything, after more than a week of the world perusing the misery of this place, matters are worse.

“Please – this way, this way,” say people and we are inside a hanger crammed with sick, fever seems to hang in the air: malaria.

Read more: French rescue British woman in Central African Republic

Suddenly we are shown Prudence Seressona. Calmly wrapped in blankets, face exposed, eyes closed, she has just succumbed to malaria.

Prudence was 25, a mum with two daughters and one, Loika, who is ten, looks silently on her mother’s face, a tear rolling down her right cheek.

She is now an orphan. Her father died four years ago – of malaria.


Seconds later Prudence’s sister barges in, hysterical with grief: “My sister! My sister!” she screams.

“What am I going to do? What am I going to do now?”

A man approaches: “Nobody’s been here to help. All we want is some cover against the rain and mosquitos – where is it?”

Read more: Central African Republic: amidst ongoing terror, progress is relative

Not 20 feet away little Jacques Seragaza is seriously malnourished (pictured above). A picture of abject innocence and abandonment. Silent, uncomprehending. A world at the edge of hell.

His mother is dead. His father, listless, appears to have simply given up. We photograph him and give his exact location to Unicef officials.

We are told they will find him immediately when they take one look at the picture. Several hours later they say they’ve lost the picture. Then later still that they are in a meeting.

It is nightfall and there is still no confirmation that Jacques has been located and his place in the camp is easy to find and less than 500m from an MSF clinic.

Follow @alextomo on Twitter

Tweets by @alextomo