“Fatal Exodus: Consequences of a Great Migration,” by Simon Worrall for the National Geographic:
Last week, a gruesome discovery was made in the Sahara: the decomposed corpses of 52 children, part of a group of 113 migrants from Niger who were being transported by human traffickers toward Algeria and the glittering El Dorado of their dreams, Europe.
Their journey began on September 26 in the remote mining town of Arlit, in the north of Niger, which was recently ranked by the Save the Children charity as the worst place to be a mother on Earth. As they rattled across the desert in two ramshackle trucks, toward the Algerian town of Tamanrasset, these mothers dreamed of a better life for their children. But only 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Arlit, the first of the two vehicles broke down. The other vehicle turned back to Arlit to get a spare part after unloading its human cargo in the desert. It, too, soon broke down.
The children stayed close to their mothers, doing their best to shelter from the burning sun. At this time of year, temperatures in the Sahara reach well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). It was cooler at night. But darkness also brought the fear of wild animals. The next day, this huddle of desperate humanity again waited for the drivers to return with the spare parts. But they did not come. Nor the next day. Nor the next. Water was running low. So, on the fifth day, the group set out on foot to find a well. But before they could reach it, most of them had succumbed to starvation and thirst. Only 21 survived, among them two smugglers, who managed to get back to Arlit and are now in jail. Some of the children were found clinging to their mothers. Others died alone, or were eaten by jackals. They were only a few miles from the well…