Benin is a West African nation. It’s sandwiched between Nigeria in the east and Togo in the west. It’s highly dependent on cotton—the crop accounts for 40% of the country’s GDP. It’s no surprise, then, that many Beninese are involved in cotton production.
Modachirou Inoussa is a young Beninese. Although he’s only eight years old, he’s already helping his parents in the cotton fields. One day, Modachirou runs back to his home, feeling thirsty. Finding nothing to drink, he sets off to look for his parents. Along the way, he finds an empty container. He picks it up, scoops some water, and has a drink. Modachirou does not return home that evening. A search party later finds his body next to a pesticide container—the same container used to quench his thirst.
Issaka is another Beninese. He’s an adult with four children, aged between six and eight. One August day, Issaka treats his cotton field with pesticide. After a hard day’s work, he returns to his home. He then does a curious thing: he leaves his work clothes on the roof. His action suggests that he’s aware of the dangers of pesticides—he’s keeping his “poisonous clothing” away from his children. Alas, Issaka’s precautionary measure fails him. It rains that night; and the water passes through his clothes and drips into his household vessels. The next day, his children drink from the vessels. Several minutes later, they begin to experience headaches, nausea and convulsions. They are urgently sent to a health centre where they are treated with Diazepam, glucose serum and oxygen. The treatment is, however, ineffective. All four of the children pass away within the next 20 hours.
What you’ve just read are true stories. They’re heartbreaking. And they’re not confined to Benin. Moreover, such poisoning-related deaths affect not only children but also adults. Every year, up to 77 million cotton workers suffer from pesticide poisoning—and thousands eventually die.
Will you not do something to help?
Note: You can learn more about the situation in Benin by watching these videos: