Niger: Courage in the midst of despair
As I sit down with Ali amid the dust and heat, I am already prepared for his concerns – lack of food, lack of clean water, lack of opportunities to make money.
What I am not prepared for, and what I cannot help but be moved and surprised by, is his patience and positivity amid such despair.
It is at this moment that I realise Ali is a man of great courage.
- Ali with his family outside their home
Like so many families in Niger, Ali is facing a terrifying daily struggle to find enough food to feed his family.
After a failed harvest, he explains that he does not have any grain of his own.
Ali has already had to pay the price of this ongoing struggle to find enough to eat.
“Three years ago, my twins were admitted to the nutritional recovery centre in Korgom, run by Save the Children,” he says quietly.
Tragically, one of the twins passed away. She was only four years old.
Malnutrition all too often is the cause of death for millions of young children around the world, and here in Niger, one in six children don’t live to see their fifth birthday.
Help us reach more children in Niger
A struggle to find food
Looking thoughtfully at me, Ali explains his situation:
“I am a blacksmith, and I work as a farmer.
“My wife sells water and pounds millet for other families.”
His family’s small 70kg harvest has been used up and they don’t have the money to buy food.
“My wife and I work every day to feed our children.
“Sometimes we have no choice but to beg because there is no work.
“Sometimes I spend the night in the neighbouring villages in search of food.
“Sometimes people help, but now the problem is that even the people who helped us are now looking after their stocks as the food in the market is so expensive.”
I know from my work here that prices in Niger this year are 25% higher than last year, seriously affecting the ability of poor families like Ali’s to feed their children.
Children at risk
As he continues his story, I realise a lack of food is not Ali’s only worry.
Forced to leave their family in search of work and food, Ali’s two eldest sons, Idi and Chafiou, are now in Nigeria.
“With the current problems in Nigeria, I am afraid for my two children,” Ali says. “I have no news of them. That’s why I don’t like people emigrating to Nigeria, but the food situation leaves us no choice.”
Pausing quietly, he reflects before telling me his hopes for the future.
“The most important thing in my life is to have enough food and a way of making money.
“I hope my children will get out of this poverty. We always pray for our children, we give them food, we educate them.
“I want my children to succeed in life – that is why I pray every day.”
Abdourahamane M Kadaf, monitoring and evaluation officer, Niger
In response to the crisis, Save the Children is rapidly scaling up our response – working to reduce the threat of malnutrition and supporting vulnerable families to earn a living.