Niger: Abuda’s story
I’ve driven past a lot of mud brick houses since I’ve been in Niger. Now I’ve been invited inside.
It’s a single room. It’s surprisingly light, with a sand floor, a bed, a cot with a blue mosquito net hanging above, and a painted cabinet full of pots and pans. It’s plain and simple, a piece of sacking covers the window, but there’s also bright wallpaper, beige with bright red and pink art deco flowers.
This is Abuda’s house. Abuda is twenty-seven and she lives here with her seven month old son, Darrida. We’re in the village of Farountsoho, about 50 km away from Zinder, the second largest town in Niger.
Abuda has so little. Her kitchen is an open fire in the yard outside, her bathroom is an area beside the house shielded from view by a screen woven from leaves; her other set of clothes hang by the bed. But she’s house proud. On her one thin shelf some empty soap boxes have been saved and displayed as decoration, the beds are made, the sand floor is clear of debris and pebbles.
And Abuda is being the best mother she can be. The mosquito net is above her baby’s bed, not hers. She explains ‘I borrowed it from my neighbour when I was pregnant’. She’s breastfeeding her baby, she knows it’s the best way for him to be healthy. She makes and sells bean cakes by the road to bring in some extra income despite the fierce desert heat. And she’s planning her future income too. Abuda borrowed a goat from a neighbour to rear; “I will keep this goat until I have the goat’s baby. Then the owner will give the baby to me.” She’ll then be able to start her own flock.
Women like Abuda live all over Niger. With almost no education, support, or resources they’re still coming up with intelligent ways to support themselves and their families. They’re enterprising and they’re finding their own ways out of poverty, but they live in one of the hardest places in the world.
I met Abuda just over a week ago. It’s possible the roof of her house has collapsed since then, destroying the few things she owned, drowning the baby goat, and leaving both Abuda and Darrida exposed to disease. Heavy rainfall across Niger has already waterlogged and dissolved homes, flooded fields, killed over 50,000 animals.
I don’t know if that’s happened to Abuda. But if it has, how can she recover? Not only would she have lost the little she had, she will also have gained debts – the goat, the mosquito net. How could she cook bean cakes on an open fire in an open yard in a storm? Who would stop to buy them?
Families like this need support. They’re trying hard, but with so little they’re still vulnerable. One heavy storm can destroy their lives. Save the Children are working in Abuda’s community. She has access to free healthcare at the clinic five kilometres away. Our staff know the poorest families, they visit every few weeks to monitor their situation and see what help they can give. And, come October, we’re planning on following Abuda’s lead by giving goats to the poorest families on the understanding that the first kids go to another poor family in the village so everyone benefits.