It is hard to believe how Clara Town, a slum in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, once had access to the country's electricity grid. Pipe-borne water flowed into the community, and some areas even had paved roads. Nine years after the end of more than a decade of civil war, the entire area on the edge of St Paul's river is in the dark, save for the noisy generators here and there pumping smelly diesel-powered electricity into some of the more affluent homes.
Makeshift wires hang dangerously low from the tightly packed concrete homes and tin shacks – the products of business-minded folk who sell their electricity on. The sun has gone down and it feels like the entire community is out on the streets, taking advantage of the little light that emanates from some abodes. Motorbikes and the odd car rattle down the dusty, potholed roads.
"The criminals, they are plenty because it is dark," says Ma Kanneh, 33, as she stirs a huge pot of boiling rice over a charcoal stove at the front of a large concrete house. More than 50 people live in the 16 rooms inside this almost windowless cavern. Kanneh shares hers with six others. "No light. The whole city is dark. We're suffering," she says. The young mother and her family have no bathroom. They wait until it is dark before going out to the back of the house to bathe. "We can buy candles … On the table here is the candle our children use [to do their homework]," she says.