In 2011, Daughter #1 decided to take a break for medical school, in between two residencies. Anybody who has a doctor in the family knows what a “Doctor” break means: More work. She applied to, and joined, for a year, “Médecins sans frontières”, (Doctors without borders) a French/International NGO that provides medical and humanitarian aid worldwide to victims of conflicts or natural disasters. The above photo: baby in line (on her mother’s back) for a vaccination campaign in Tchad (Chad in English?).
Young girl from a nomad tribe of Tchad. Daughter #1’s first assignment was in Tchad. I was not too happy about that. My African childhood has left me with a relatively wide knowledge of Africa. Tchad was then – and probably still is – in the middle of many armed conflicts, due to its geographical location, smack in the middle of Africa, south of Lybia, East of Niger, North of Nigeria and West of Sudan. Fortunately the mission was stationed in the South of Chad, with relatively more security.
Young boys at a vaccination campaign, Chad, 2011. The mission was to stop a outbreak of viral meningitis. Project leader: MSF (Médecins sans frontières) teaming with WHO (World Health Organization). The meningitis outbreak in Chad could likely claim thousands of lives, if massive vaccination campaigns, funded and implemented by MSF were not carried out.
“See how brave I was? I did not cry when the nurse stuck the needle.” Chad is one of the poorest countries in the world. More than 50 years after Independence, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita (at Purchasing Power Parity) was 2,850 (International) Dollars a year, in 2016. 7 Dollars a day per person. As a matter of comparison, US GDP per capita (PPP) was $57,294.00. I will not go into the overwhelming corruption of (most) African governments. Check Transparency International corruption Index for that.
Cattle of the nomadic tribes of Chad. Suffice it to say, that without international aid, and Doctors without borders, direct, on hand action on the ground thousands would have died of meningitis. So, vaccines were bought, shipped and stored (the cold chain being a nightmare under the African sun), and vaccination campaigns were launched. (Alongside with as much immediate health care as could be provided.)
Children of the Northern nomadic tribes of Chad. Chad’s population is close to 12 million inhabitants. Birthrate is 36.6 per 1,000, as compared to 12.5 in the US. Average births per fertile woman is 6 and change. Infant mortality (under the age of one year) is 89 per 1,000 live births. Want to know the figure for the US? 6 per 1,000 live births.
Women and a young girl from one of the nomadic tribes of Northern Chad. I couldn’t tell which tribe. They would know: colour and style of the dress and headdress is generally enough.
The young man on the right has adopted a headdress style closer to the Arabic Gulf states than Africa. Fashion rules everywhere. Most Chadians in the North are moslem.
A very serious young lady. Everyone donned their best clothes to come to the vaccination rally.
A respected elder.
A shy beauty. Note the silver coins arranged as a necklace. The dowry is often invested in gold and silver to reflect the woman’s wealth and status.
Babies in Africa, as was the case in many cultures around the globe, are generally carried on their mother’s back for a long time, as much as two years or more. Makes for a closer mother-child relationship, and allows the mother to have both her hands and arms free. I’ve seen women in Africa work the fields with a hoe, the baby sound asleep on their back.
Not smiling. That hurt…
Smile, smile. Note the tattoos joining the eyebrows.
My heartfelt thanks to Cécile Heurtebise, the author and rightful owner of these photographs, and a colleague of Daughter #1 on the Chad mission. In addition to being a humanitarian, she is a remarkable photographer. I wish I could do such wonderful portraits. 🙂
Should you wish to learn more about Médecins Sans Fontières, who really do an amazing work, here is the link to their english page:
Thank you for traveling on Equinoxio’s Time-Space shuttle.