KRWG

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton

Could I summon the resolve to eat a grasshopper?

That was the question.

It's certainly a good idea to think about eating insects. Food specialists would like people around the world to think about eating insects — an excellent source of protein.

Not everyone is a fan of the idea, for the obvious reasons.

But in northeastern Nigeria, deep-fried grasshoppers, spiced with powdered chili, are a local favorite.

Ado Garba told me that he loves eating grasshoppers. I could tell, admiringly, that he is a hopper connoisseur.

If you happen to be a cancer patient needing radiation in Senegal, getting past the shock of the diagnosis and onto treatment is a major hardship at the moment.

The country's only radiotherapy machine — indeed for a long while the only one in French-speaking West Africa — is broken. That's the machine whose radiation is used to treat primarily breast, head and neck tumors and bone cancer.

Picture a kaleidoscope of color and a medley of vivid African print cloth surging forward amid screams and weeping — for joy.

That was the magnificent and moving scene, Saturday, in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, as 82 former Chibok schoolgirls — now young women — were reunited with their mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and other family members, after three years in Boko Haram captivity. Tears were streaming down their faces and gave way to broad smiles of happiness and relief after years of torment and trauma and missing their families.

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Along the Chari and Logone rivers separating Cameroon from Chad's capital, four flat-bottomed boats, mounted with machine guns, brimming with Chadian and other special forces, round the curve as they approach the riverbank.

Forming an assault force, heavily armed soldiers leap out of the vessels and race up a slope to take up positions while backup forces have their machine guns at the ready.

Marie-Victoire Carvalho Sow is busy in the annex to her kitchen in Dakar, dishing out giant ladles full of a traditional Senegalese Easter treat.

It's called ngalakh – a delectable mix of millet, groundnut (peanut) paste, bouye (the fruit of the baobab tree, which is also known locally as pain de singe or monkey bread), sugar, vanilla essence and orange blossom.

She says every year, Catholics make this special food for Good Friday and it's savored over Easter weekend.

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A prominent Muslim leader in Nigeria is making a point about a common practice in Islam. He says if people are worried about poverty or terrorism, they should consider how those problems can be made worse by polygamy. Here's NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton.

President Robert Mugabe turns 93 on Tuesday, making him the oldest president in Africa — and the world. He's the only leader most Zimbabweans have ever known, spending nearly 37 years at the helm since independence from Britain and the end of white minority rule in Rhodesia in April 1980.

Southern Africa is facing an invasion by an army — but not the sort of force you can defeat with ammunition. This foreign invader is an agricultural pest that is threatening the breadbasket of the region.

Zambian farmer Daniel Banda noticed in late December that something was munching through his crop of corn, destroying the maize fields on his small farm just outside the capital, Lusaka. Voracious caterpillars, known as fall armyworms, had nestled in the cobs and chomped through the leaves.

Some are calling it Nigeria's new "boy band." An "old boy band" would be more like it.

A new singing group that burst onto the Nigerian musical scene over the new year consists of senior citizens — a chorus of prominent past political and military leaders from Africa's most populous nation. And they're singing about peace, unity and goodwill in 2017.

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It's the land of pop-up protests.

Using hashtags and spur-of-the-moment public demonstrations, Zimbabweans are demanding reforms — and the departure of 92-year-old president Robert Mugabe, who has led the country since its independence from Britain in 1980.

Fortunate Nyakupinda has parked her hatchback by the side of the busy main road leading to the industrial area in Harare — where she sells used clothing for men from the trunk and the back seat.

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She wants to take pictures of happiness.

That's one of the goals that Fati Abubakar set when she started her Instagram feed bitsofborno last year.

Borno is a state in the troubled northeast of Nigeria, where the extremist group Boko Haram began operating. The capital city, Maiduguri, birthplace of the insurgency, is where this 30-year-old nurse lives and works as a project manager for a malnutrition project as well as a documentary photographer.

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A holiday celebrating a dish beloved of many West Africans, World Jollof Day, was marked last week.

Jollof is a celebration dish. You eat it at parties, naming ceremonies, weddings, funerals — you name it, you will see the familiar and comforting pot of steaming jollof rice.

But jollof is also war – of the deliciously friendly variety.

Wide-eyed Sakina Muhammad, who's 2, sits on the lap of her mother, Habiba, on a bed in the ICU. Sakina is stick thin, her body withered and emaciated.

But she's one of the lucky ones — a malnourished child who came to the health facility in time to be saved. Many starving children don't make it.

Malnutrition is at a catastrophic level in northeastern Nigeria, where Sakina lives, says Doctors Without Borders. According to the medical aid group, the number of malnourished people could be as high as half a million. Children are starving — and dying.

Nigeria is the English-speaking world's Scrabble superpower. Africa's most populous nation is home not only to the global Scrabble champion, but team Nigeria ranks as the world's top Scrabble playing nation — ahead of the U.S. in second place.

The United Nations suspended food and relief aid to dangerous and hard-to-access areas in northeastern Nigeria, amid a catastrophic humanitarian crisis affecting half a million people. The move comes after Boko Haram ambushed a humanitarian convoy.

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It's World Refugee Day today, and the head of the UN's refugee agency, FiIippo Grandi, has released some startling statistics – starting with the fact that there are 65 million refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons. That's a record number.

And behind every number, there is a story.

It's a familiar story. A young man leaves his family in search of a golden land, a place where he can earn more money to send back home.

In the past, the story has led to happy endings as well as tragedies. That is also the case in the 21st century. Last week, there were reports of 700 migrants who likely perished in three shipwrecks in the Mediterranean while crossing from Libya to Italy.

Nigerian tomatoes are tasty and juicy. But a large basket of toms is now costing an arm and a leg. From about $10.40 three months ago, that price has rocketed 400 percent to a staggering $40, according to local media.

Assaga is an unlikely location for a refugee-cum-displaced people's settlement. Niger's main east-west highway runs through the heart of a sweeping expanse of desert that is the sprawling camp. Flimsy straw huts, some stitched together with plastic sheeting, dot the arid, dusty landscape on either side of the major road.

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Now to some good news from Nigeria. Authorities say one of the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram two years ago is free. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has been following the story and joins us now from Abuja, Nigeria. Hello, there.

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The latest in African visual arts is now on display in Senegal's capital. Dakar is host to a month-long arts festival that's held every other year. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is taking it all in and has this report.

Bourang Ba was a young farmer in Sitacourou — a sleepy village of scattered thatched roof dwellings where cattle chomp on hay in courtyards. Last year, the father of two set out for Europe, leaving behind his son, daughter and young wife, Nialina. Like his two half-brothers who had already migrated to Spain, he hoped to send money home for the family.

Bourang Ba never made it to Europe. He drowned in the Mediterranean en route.

"He wanted to do his bit and provide for his relatives, so he left without telling me," sobs Wassa Ba, Bourang Ba's father.

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