Living in Niger Home Page Page 1 of 3
Crisis in Niger
MARADI, Niger (AFP) - Relief groups said that if
donors had heeded Niger's appeals for assistance last
November, the west African state would not be on the
verge of a crisis in which thousands of children risk
death from severe malnutrition.
Of 14 appeals for aid to Africa made so far this year
by UN agencies, eight have received just one for
every five dollars requested, or less than 20 percent
of the amount of the appeal.
The 16 million-dollar appeal in June for Niger has so far only netted about five
million dollars (four million euros), not nearly enough to coordinate the purchase,
storage and distribution of the millet, sorghum and rice crops that are staples in the
arid nation's national diet.
Niger recorded deficits in cereal production in the hundreds of thousands of tons
after the 2004 harvest from its parched cropland, which had been decimated by an
invasion of hungry desert locusts, the worst in more than a decade.
Gian Carlo Cirri, country director for the UN's World Food Program, told AFP that an
initial aid package of six million euros sought in November would have been
sufficient to purchase needed grain reserves to sustain the most vulnerable among
Niger's 12 million people over the lean season.
"Now we need over 15 million euros (in aid)," Cirri said. "We've been ringing the
alarm bell since last October and only now, now that children are dying, are we
starting to receive attention and help."
More than 10,000 Niger children are being treated for malnutrition at therapeutic
feeding centers scattered around the country's north and center, the regions
hardest-hit by the hunger crisis.
The town of Maradi, some 620 kilometers (372 miles) east of the capital Niamey, is
considered the epicenter of the "silent hunger" sweeping Niger, mostly affecting
already vulnerable populations of children and their mothers.
"We're seeing more and more children with severe malnutrition," said Doctor
Innocent Ntunzimbona, grabbing spare seconds between treating listless children
with shriveled bodies and swollen bellies at a Medecins Sans Frontieres camp here.
"Every week the numbers rise, the cases get worse and the children hover closer to
death. And it's only going to get worse."
Perennial donors to Niger, ranked above only war-torn Sierra Leone on the UN's
Human Development Index, have begun slowly to heed the dire warnings from relief
groups. The European Union last week announced some 4.6 million euros in
humanitarian aid to Niger, most of which will be targeted nutritional support.
Aid has trickled in from northern neighbors Algeria, Libya and Morocco in the form
of dates, fruit juice and powdered milk, while Saudi Arabia, the UAE and China have
also donated food and money to the starving nation.
But problems with distribution and the paucity of a social services network have
meant that even these donations are not reaching the population in time.
"Despite our early requests for help, mobilization by the international community
has been slow," said Doctor Seydou Bakary, coordinator of the Niger government's
food crisis unit.
"We are doing what we can with what little we have."
The following is a recent news report from
FACT BOX: http://www.voanews.com/english/2005-04-28-
PLEASE HELP! The
people of Niger are in The French humanitarian organization Doctors
desperate trouble right Without Borders (Medcins Sans Frontieres) has
now and need all of our warned that a crisis is emerging in southern Niger
help. Please help spread where the agency has seen a worrying increase in
the word. The biggest severely malnourished children.
problem is that not
many people are even The head of the Doctors Without Borders mission in
aware there is a Niger, Johannes Sekkenes, says that every week
problem. I know not all between 200 to 250 children are admitted to feeding
of us have the extra
Living in Niger Home Page Page 2 of 3
money to send but we
all have voices and
fingers and we can
spread the word until it
gets to someone who
does have the money.
Living in Niger Home Page Page 3 of 3
centers in the Maradi and Tahoua districts of southern Niger, a 300 percent increase
from previous years.
Ms. Sekkenes says that the children they are receiving at feeding centers are very,
very thin, and suffering from severe malnutrition. She says many of the children are
at risk of dying from lack of food if not given immediate medical care.
The humanitarian agency has opened an additional feeding center in Maradi and will
open another in Tahoua to try and cope with the numbers of children who need
Children suffering from malnutrition have thin arms, but distended bellies as their
livers have become enlarged. In extreme cases, the body starts to consume its own
tissues, and people acquire a skeletal appearance. Long-term effects of child
malnutrition are uncertain, but some children have been known to suffer mental
Ms. Sekkenes says that she is very pessimistic and does not think that the situation
She says that Niger is still approaching the season between two harvests when food
is normally scarce.
Niger journalist, Ousmane Toudou, says that even in Niger's capital Niamey, people
are finding it difficult to afford food, but for people in rural areas it is much worse.
Mr. Toudou says that people in the countryside do not have the means to buy food,
and normally they would grow their own.
Harvests last year failed in Niger due to a combination of drought and swarms
locusts which ate young, growing crops across the Sahel region. With grain stores
depleted and growing food shortages, prices of food in one of the world's poorest
countries have dramatically increased.
There are a few different ways to help, as I said the most important being
spreading the word. Another way is to contribute directly to a food bank
that is being set up to help villages get through the rainy season. Here are
Send money direct to the woman doing cereal banks. So, here's the 5 step process...
1. Please send a check to our diplomatic pouch address:
2420 Niamey Place
Dulles, VA 20189-2420
2. In the interim, please email us the dollar amount you are sending.
firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
3. We will take cash a check locally here to get CFA (the Nigerien currency) into the hands of
the folks doing the cereal bank construction as quickly as possible.
4. When your check arrives to our address after 10-14 days, we will then deposit this to cover
5. Sound good?...Questions?
Great, then send your check and email and you will be making the ultimate difference in some
This is one of the most legitimate ways to help that there is. The only
better way would be to fly there and give it to the women and children
yourself. There is also another effort that you can find out more about at a
friend's website, www.saveniger.org. It is just being set up and should have more
information on how you can help soon.
This site is dedicated to giving people a glimpse into the lives of the people of Niger and the
Peace Corps volunteers living among them. This site is the culmination of many volunteers'
experiences over the past 6 years and will hopefully open many people's eyes as to what life is
like living in the country of Niger. You may note that I have not yet written anything favorable
about Niger yet. This website will do it's best to give an unbiased view, or at least present both
When I was offered the opportunity to go to Niger to serve in the Peace Corps for
two years there was not much I could find that told me what life was like for a
volunteer living there. I found plenty of statistics and facts, but very few real world
perspectives. Hopefully this website will help others who are thinking of going to
Niger, either to serve, or visit.
Niger is a place of startling contrasts. The environment is both beautiful and forbidding at the
same time. The people of Niger are subject to some of the harshest conditions on earth, but are
the most amiable and welcoming people you will ever meet. The question that most volunteers
are asked upon their return from service is "Well how was it?" or "How did you like it?".
Personally, I have to stifle a laugh when people pose this question to me. The short answer is
that it was the hardest thing I have ever done and probably will ever do, and if I had known what
it was going to be like before I left, I would have never gone. But I would never trade the
experience that I had there for anything, and knowing what I know now, I would do it again in a
heartbeat, and recommend it to you as well.