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Bluffer’s guide to the Rio Olympics and Paralympics

If you don’t know your world geography, this global sports day can make you look a little foolish. No need to panic – Concern is here to help.

Credit: Yasunobu Hiraoka -

Picture by Yasunobu Hiraoka

The Olympics and Paralympics can be a baffling few weeks. You might watch 20 minutes of handball or Greco-Roman wrestling without any idea what is really going on. What are the rules? Who’s winning? Are the burly men in leotards actually fighting, or just sharing an enthusiastic hug?

And if you spent your schooldays staring out of the classroom window, there’s another problem. 206 countries are taking part, some of which you might struggle to place on a map. Can you get through the games without revealing your ignorance?

Here’s where we come in. Concern works in dozens of beautiful, brilliant countries that don’t always make the headlines. To help you look well-travelled, we’ve profiled a few of them in our handy bluffer’s guide. Now you’ll have something impressive to say when a weightlifter you’ve never heard of grunts her way to glory.


A world map with an arrow indicating Niger. Credit: Concern

This West African country is home to 17 million people. About 80 per cent of it is covered by the Sahara Desert.

Top fact: The Dama Gazelle, Niger's national symbol, signals danger to other members of its herd by pronking – jumping up and down with all four of its legs stiff.

What we do there: As well as boosting people’s health and nutrition, we’re helping teachers use technology to raise school standards.


A world map with an arrow indicating Lebanon. Credit: Concern

This Middle Eastern country, south of Syria and north of Israel on the edge of the Mediterranean, is smaller than Yorkshire.

Top fact: Singer Shakira, lawyer Amal Clooney and actress Salma Hayek all have Lebanese heritage.

What we do there: We’re giving emergency support to Syrian refugees, who make up a quarter of Lebanon’s population. This includes life-saving essentials like clothes, stoves and blankets.


A world map with an arrow indicating Burundi. Credit: Concern

The population of Burundi is about 10 million people – roughly the same as London.

Top fact: Lake Tanganyika, which runs down most of Burundi’s western border, is the world’s longest freshwater lake.

What we do there: We’re improving health and education, particularly for extremely poor and marginalised children. We’re also helping people earn a better living. And we’re supporting people affected by conflict in the country


A world map with an arrow indicating Liberia. Credit: Concern

This African nation sits on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

Top fact: Liberian president Ellen Sirleaf Johnson is the continent’s first female elected head of state.

What we do there: We’re building schools, training teachers and making sure people have safe drinking water. At our farmers’ field schools, people get skills that help them feed their families and escape poverty.


A world map with an arrow indicating Haiti. Credit: Concern

This country on the Caribbean island of Dominica was founded in 1804, after a slave revolt.

Top fact: Haiti is the world’s top producer of vetiver grass – a plant used to make soap, perfume and cosmetics.

What we do there: We have been in Haiti since the deadly earthquake of 2010. Our work there includes fixing water systems, building street lights, and giving people training and investment to get a job or launch a small business.