The poem looks at the bitter hardship in Biafra during its civil war with Nigeria. Starvation and disease
were rife, and children died with unconcerned regularity. The poet examines one case where a mother
did care and continued to treat her child as if he would live.
ABOUT THE POET
Chinua Achebe was born in Ogidi (Nigeria) in November 1930. He was the son of a teacher at a mission
He was schooled at the Government College in Umuahia and then at the University College in Ibadan
where he received a Bachelors degree in 1953, having specialised in English, History and Theology.
He thereupon studied broadcasting with the BBC, after which he worked for the Voice of Nigeria. Later
he was appointed research fellow at the University of Nigeria, where he eventually became a professor
In 1961 Achebe married Christie Chinwe Okoli with whom he had four children.
In 1967 civil war broke out in Nigeria when the Catholic dominated province of Biafra attempted
independence from the Moslem dominated central state. During those fateful years, Achebe worked as
an ambassador for the Biafran government.
The war went badly for the Biafrans who suffered immensely, and starvation was rife. The poet's firsthand
experience of the hardship and struggle inspired him to write "Refugee Mother and Child".
Achebe has written several novels and many poems. Indeed, he is considered to be one of the finest
literary artists to have come out of Africa. He is a believer that all literature "should have a message,
should have a purpose".
He retired in 1981 but in 1990 was paralysed from the waist down in a car accident.
Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?