independent

Friday 31 October 2014

Graham to cover Saharan conflict

BILL BROWNE

Published 02/08/2014 | 00:00

Fermoy journalist, Graham Clifford

MOST Irish people will never have heard of Western Sahara, a semi-autonomous disputed territory on the north west tip of Africa.

One of the harshest populated areas on the planet, Western Sahara has been the subject of a tug-of-war between Morocco and Mauretania since Spain relinquished it as a colony in 1975.

A subsequent wars between the two countries resulted in Morocco securing effective control of the country, with the native Sahrawi people setting up a government in exile in Algeria.

The ensuing conflict between both sides has resulted in more than 150,000 Sahrawi people living in four massive refugee camps at Tindouf in Algeria, which were established in the 1970s.

Fermoy journalist Graham Clifford is set to travel to Western Sahara next January to report at first hand on the impact that war and violence has had on the children of Tindouf.

Graham is to travel to Africa with the aid of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund, an initiative established by Irish Aid in memory of the late Irish journalist who was killed in 2004 while reporting from Saudi Arabia for the BBC. The am of the fund is to assist and promote more and better quality media coverage of development issues in the Irish media.

Graham's feature articles on Western Sahara will be published through almost 20 media outlets across the Ireland.

Graham, who has previously reported on the plight of child refugees in Kosovo and Ethiopia, said he hopes to raise awareness of the harsh conditions and appalling poverty the Sahrawi people are forced to live under.

"Life in a refugee camp is very hard, but when that camp is in one of the most inhospitable parts of the world it becomes a daily struggle just to survive," Graham told The Corkman.

Daily temperatures average around 50 Celsius and there is no running water or electricity. The searing heat means that no fruit or vegetables can be grown there and imported fresh goods spoil before they even get to the camps.

"Malnutrition among children is a huge problem. People are also afraid to travel too far from the camps due to vicious sandstorms and the fact that there are numerous minefields scattered across the region," said Graham.

"Effectively, people are born, live their lives and die within the confines of these camps. There is a massive ongoing humanitarian crisis in Western Sahara that sadly gets very little international recognition," he said.

Graham, who will be accompanied on the trip by Cork based freelance photographer Clare Keogh, said he plans to tell the stories of children caught up in the cycle of poverty.

"The aim is to focus on a part of the world that has been largely ignored and forgotten," he said.

Corkman

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