Reporters on the Job

The Sound of Food: Reporter Meera Selva traveled through southern Sudan, where two decades of war means everyone is an expert at identifying the aircraft that deliver life and those that deliver destruction.

"The government sends Soviet-made Antonovs to bomb villages, and the World Food Program sends US-made C-130s to drop maize and beans," says Meera. "Villagers, who have no other exposure to modern technology, can distinguish between the sounds of the different aircraft engines from miles away. They heard the whine of the C-130 long before I did. The sight is extraordinary. A plane flies overhead at a prearranged time, dropping plastic sacks of flour and beans on wooden pallets. It swoops round, scatters the second batch and flies off without landing," says Meera.

Aid workers organize the local women to divide the food equally among those who need help. Nothing is wasted. The plastic sacks are used to build waterproof roofs for the wattle and daub huts that make up the village, and the wooden pallets are used to build tables, chairs, and blackboards for the local school. "It was a strangely cheering sight in the midst of so much poverty and desperation," says Meera (this page).

• Know Thine Enemy: Reporter Kathie Klarreich lived in Haiti for a decade and travels there regularly. She's seen turmoil before. But the current unrest "is different (page 7). This time you don't know who the enemy is. The potential for civil war is stronger now than at any time in the last 15 years," she says. "Under [Jean-Claude] Duvalier, you knew to stay away from the Tonton Macoutes [his militiamen]. During the 1991 military coup, you knew not to talk about Aristide. But you don't know whom to talk to - or in which direction you can go - and know that it's safe."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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