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At a glance: Guinea

Amid unrest in Guinea, boy shot while playing football

© UNICEF Guinea/2007/Baro
A young man who was shot while playing football in the streets of Conakry, Guinea.

By Fatoumata Diallo

CONAKRY, Guinea, 23 February 2007 – Mamadou Sidi Diallo woke up one morning last month thinking only about the football game he was going to play that day with his friends. By that night he was lying in a hospital bed, paralyzed on the left side by a bullet from uniformed men who shot at him and his friends on the field.

Mamadou, 15, had been out of school for 10 days due to the escalating violence in which more than 100 people have died and almost 1,000 have been injured or raped. Trade unions in January launched a general strike against the government that resulted in riots and looting as well as a violent crackdown by the authorities.

The government imposed martial law and a strict curfew in mid-February.

© UNICEF Guinea/2007/Baro
Tires burn in Conakry City in January as residents carry their belongings to safer areas.

Attack on children

The day he was shot, Mamadou’s mother forbade him to leave the house but he sneaked out while she was cooking and headed to the football field.

“All my friends were already there,” he recalls. “We talked for a few minutes and started the game. Suddenly we saw other teenagers coming from the main road and running very fast. They disappeared in seconds and armed men in black uniforms came seconds later and started shooting at us.

“One of the boys who were watching our game was shot in the head,” continues Mamadou. “I was still shocked by what I was seeing when I felt something on my neck.”

Mamadou was taken to the local hospital by the Red Cross. He was later diagnosed with severe nerve damage from the bullet that struck him.

© UNICEF Guinea/2007/Baro
UNICEF staff carry emergency kits to the Ratoma medical centre in Conakry City.

Keeping hospitals running

In the midst of such incidents, UNICEF Guinea and its partners are working to keep the hospitals operating. They have supplied medicine, emergency kits, fuel and technical assistance to the two major hospitals of Conakry and more than 20 medical centres around the country.

The humanitarian groups have also distributed contingency funds for the hospitals, fuel for ambulances and 10 water bladders for neighbourhoods in the capital city that lack supplies of safe drinking water.

In addition, UNICEF and partner organizations are providing psychosocial support to children affected by the situation in Conakry.

‘The strength to fight’

Even before the unrest, life for children in Guinea was not easy. More than half of the country’s population of 9 million is under 18 years of age, and more than 600,000 of its youth have to work or beg to survive, opening them up to exploitation.

Educational materials and equipment are still scarce, and school enrolment is only at 66 per cent for boys and 60 per cent for girls. An increasing number of children are orphaned and rendered vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.

As for Mamadou, after weeks in hospital in Conakry he was transferred to Morocco to get better medical treatment. Though he is suffering, his dream of becoming a famous football player keeps him going.

“Sometimes I am afraid to die, but when I close my eyes I see myself with a ball scoring in a beautiful stadium and people screaming out my name,” he says. “It gives me the strength to fight.”



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