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Niger: Orange skies and sand storms

Orange skies as a sandstorm hits Niamey - photo courtesy of Dave Greenhalgh
Orange skies as a sandstorm hits Niamey - photo courtesy of Dave Greenhalgh

It was a fairly standard day for working out of Save the Children’s office in Niamey. The internet connection was slow and it was hot.

Suddenly the room I was working in went orange. It was as if someone had put an orange filter over the window glass. Then it went very dark but it was the middle of the afternoon. All three of us in the room looked at each other in bewilderment and immediately rushed outside to see what on earth was going on.

Coming towards us was an enormous sand storm. This huge orange cloud was closing in on us. It was incredible to watch, almost like a forest fire. The sky was a bright orange and got darker and darker as the cloud of sand moved over. As it approached the wind got up and then it went very dark, like night time in a large city dark, with a glow in the sky from all the lights. This glow was from the orange sand.

As the sand storm came overhead you could feel the grit in your eyes and mouth. It left a coat of sand on all the buildings and cars. In ten minutes it had passed. The wind died down and the light came back, albeit still tinged with orange. According to some staff, this was the most dramatic sand storm in two years.

For me, it was an exciting thing to experience my first ever sand storm. It was an incredible spectacle to watch from the comfort of a stone building and knowing I could go home to a fairly decent shower.

My thoughts then went to the families I’ve met since arriving in Niger: mothers like Aisha, Nana and Baraka, who might be walking long distances with a sick child towards the nearest clinic or toiling in their fields preparing to plant; the children going to fetch water or firewood, the nurses trying to treat the severely malnourished children.

They have nowhere to go to escape the sand.

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