Positive stories from Niger are a few and far between these days. Economic hardship combined with threats of terrorism paint a gloomy outlook for much of the country. Yet, if you take a closer look, you'll find initiatives trying to turn the tide. Learn more about three projects working to make things better in Niger:
Safe Cooking Energy Programme
Chidimma C. Okeke in Niamey explains that the Niger government has launched the Safe Cooking Energy Programme in order to extend the benefits of safe cooking energy to half a million households:
The newly launched programme would replace traditional use of firewood in the rest of public institutions with efficient wood-burning technologies. It would build a stove production plant in the state and create over 1,500 new jobs. The programme will empower women by training them to produce and sell stoves. It will also reduce deforestation.
The new stoves are designed to reduce the risk of mortality attributable to indoor smoke from solid fuel, sometimes referred to as indoor air pollution and domestic fire. The international NGO Sentinelles reports that domestic fires are an under-covered issue [fr] in Zinder, Niger:
Les enfants gravement brûlés sont malheureusement nombreux. Les «cuisines» des familles se composent généralement d’un simple feu de bois, où est posé le chaudron qui va servir de récipient pour préparer le repas familial. Souvent les enfants jouent autour du feu sans surveillance. Un coup de vent, un enfant trop près du feu, le pagne qui s'enflamme
The severely burned children are unfortunately numerous. The family “kitchen” usually consist of a simple wood fire, on which is placed the pot that will serve as a container for preparing the family meal. Children often play around the fire unattended. A gust of wind or a child too close to the fire and his or her clothes can catch fire.
Here is a video of the Burn Unit at Zinder Hospital in Niger by Christian Lajoumard. The video tells the story of Rachida, 12 and Hindatou, 5 both burn victims:
Rachida, 12 ans, est hospitalisée depuis 10 mois, les fesses et les deux jambes gravement brûlées. Pour tous soins médicaux, de la bétadine pour badigeonner ses plaies qui ne cicatrisent pas. Rachida, qui ne peut plus s’asseoir ni se coucher sur le dos, passe ses longues journées à plat ventre sur son lit d’hôpital sans pouvoir se mouvoir, sans jeux ni télévision pour se distraire.
Rachida, 12, was hospitalized for 10 months, her buttocks and both legs severely burned. The only medical care she received was some betadine [skin ointment] to brush her wounds that cannot seem to heal. Rachida, who cannot sit or lie on her back, spends all day long flat on her belly on her hospital bed; unable to move, without any games or television set to taker her mind off of her wounds.
Birth Registration Initiative
Across all regions of Niger, a birth registration initiative led by the Nigerien administration with the logistic help of UNICEF, has enabled a more secure future for the country's youngest citizens. Registration allows young people to be eligible to take exams, go to university, or get a national identity card or a driving license. This video shows how the initiative works to reach out to all Nigerien communities:
In Akoubounou, a village of 47,000 inhabitants in an area of 5,300 square kilometres in northwestern Niger, 600 children recently received their birth certificates delivered from the villages’ primary schools. On the UNICEF blog, Khamed Attayoub, the mayor of Akoubounou, reported:
With the ongoing decentralization process, communes have a strong interest in civil registration. We have a major role to play, notably with sensitization at village level. It’s also important to be involved with the follow-up, to make sure that we are not excluding anyone.
The mobile courts provided free hearings for unregistered youth. Between 2009 and 2011, more than 600,000 judgments were delivered to children under 18.
Mapping the Niger Territory
Tackling the challenges that come with a managing a vast territory is the Mapping for Niger project, a Rising Voices grantee. The initiative is a partnership between the Department of Geography at the Abdou Moumouni University and students from the campus Geography Club who have together formed a Volunteer Technical Community (VTC) to discover the needs and the stories of their surrounding community.
Additionally, team members use OpenStreetMap tools, to map key landmarks such as schools, streets, and hospitals in cities and rural villages, listening to what people have to say along the way. One of the recurring needs of communities, access to electricity, is described in Adama Salou's blog post [fr]:
A l’instar des autres villages du canton de Gorouol, le village de Kolmane, un village ou je passais mes vacances, souffre d’une précarité électrique notoire. Le réseau électrique est quasis absent en dehors de quelques panneaux solaires et de générateurs des batteries. Quant à l’électrification des routes, le constat est amer et inquiétant. Cela occasionne souvent des attaques des bandits armés notamment sur l’axe Kolmane – Ayorou, long de 30 km.
All the villages in the canton of Gorouol, including Kolmane where I spent my off time, suffer from a lack of electrical access. The electricity grid is quasi-absent except for a few solar panels and battery generators. As for the electrification of national roads, the situation is alarming and disturbing. This often leads to armed attacks from road bandits on the 30 km long road from Kolmane to Ayorou.