Then & Now: Under Siege

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The Independent Online
May 1900: The garrison at Mafeking had been beseiged by Boers for seven months. In his memoirs 'Besieged with Baden Powell', J E Neilly describes the suffering of civilians:

'It was not pleasant to mix among the people of the kraals. Hunger had them in its grip, and many of them were black spectres and living skeletons. I saw them crawling along . . . with their ribs literally breaking through their shrivelled skin - men, women, and children. I saw them too, fall down on the veldt and lie where they had fallen, too weak to go on their way. The sufferers were mostly little boys . . .

'When the Colonel (Baden-Powell) got to hear of the state of affairs he instituted soup kitchens, where horses were boiled in huge cauldrons, and the savoury mess doled out in pints and quarts to all comers. Some of the people - those employed on works - paid for the food; the remainder, who were the majority, obtained it free . . .

'When a flight of locusts came it was regarded as a godsend - this visitation that is looked upon by the farmer as hardly less of a curse than the rinderpest or drought. The starving ones gathered the insects up in thousands, stripped them of their heads, legs and wings, and ate the bodies. They picked up meat tins and licked them; they fed like outcast curs.'

July 1993: Bosnians in the capital, Sarajevo, under siege for 16 months, are gathering nettles to supplement their United Nations aid rations of 35 grammes per person per day.

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