This is Magdeme, Cameroon.
I shot this photo in a moving vehicle in a village around Magdeme in the Extreme Northern Region of Cameroon. This village shares a common boundary with Nigeria and has been on the news for some years now because of incessant Boko Haram attacks. I was travelling from Marowa (Cameroon) to N’Djamena (Chad) and we had to travel on this route. In as much as I was alarmed by the insecurity of this route, I was prepared to capture any unusual event with my camera that might happen on this route.
I had a mixed feeling of fear should Boko Haram extremists decide to surface that day…and also of the sophistication of the weaponry of the UN patrol team on the route which was massive. I had wanted to capture the UN soldiers on my camera, but recalled how brutal some of them could be. I never wanted to fall victim of soldiers’ brutality in a foreign land if they eventually notice am taking pictures of them.
With these thoughts on my mind, this young boy in the picture came, running and making the same gesture a young lad we had passed earlier was making to us which my fellow passengers interpreted to mean that he wanted some water. When I say water, am not referring to the one in the Liberian variant of English called Coloqua where requesting for ‘cold water’ means asking for money or a tip as the case may be, but am talking of drinking water here!!! In the earlier encounter of this same request that day, when I was told the boy wanted water, I quickly threw the bottle of water I wanted to keep with me for the journey out of the window of the vehicle so he could pick it up – you can’t imagine the joy on the boy’s face when he picked it, at least I looked back to see him.
Unfortunately, I did not have any more bottles of water to throw at this other lad. I was rather filled with emotions, wondering why people should have to beg to drink water. I resolved to make sure I encourage anyone travelling that route to always travel with lots of water. Probably they could share these water with them. In as much as this sharing of water on the road seems good, it will not meet the needs of millions who are in dire need of clean water in these regions but will reduce the risk of drinking unclean water.
I also recall meeting a Kenyan humanitarian worker based in N’Djamena after this experience who informed me of the same problem of insufficient clean water in some parts of Chad.
Before this incident, I had never taken seriously some publications that talked about government providing portable drinking water for her citizens. I had always dismissed it as a mere attempt by some politicians to loot government treasury but this incident made me see things differently. Providing portable drinking water for our world and its citizens is a cause each and every one of us must do something about. While I was wallowing in these thoughts, the vehicle I was in tried to maneuver a pothole in front of us on that road and it resulted in a shake that reminded me I had some coins in my pocket. The boy could get some water with these you know…