Niger: what if you couldn’t afford food?
Imagine you can’t afford food.
The problem isn’t that there is no food at the shops – just that you can’t afford it.
You see food piled up in the aisles at the supermarkets, but you aren’t able to buy it.
The prices have gone up and they’re just simply out of reach.
What would you do?
Rising prices, falling incomes
This is what’s happening in parts of Niger, a country in west Africa, where millions are at risk of malnutrition.
It’s the country I have just arrived in, where I’m now traveling to some of the hardest-hit areas to witness first-hand what a food crisis on this scale looks like.
It is a country where most mothers know that their children are likely to be so badly malnourished that they might not make it to their fifth birthday.
Here, a combination of rising food prices and insecurity in neighbouring countries means that families can no longer afford to buy what they need.
Prices of some goods have spiked immensely while most parents have seen their income fall. Many aren’t bringing home any money at all.
Failed rains and crop shortages
How about growing your own food, you may ask? Many Nigerien families do grow food – especially the staples here, like millet or sorghum, which are pounded down and mixed with water or milk to make porridge.
You would think this might solve the problem, and reduce their dependence on the markets. But in the past year, a combination of failed rains and crop shortages have made families more reliant on buying food at the same time as the prices have gone up.
Nigerien parents are doing all they can to keep their children alive.
They are selling whatever assets they have, at below market rate, and cutting back on meals to eating just once a day.
Some are taking their children out of school to help find money and cut costs; some are resorting to eating food meant for animals.
So, how can we help?
Although we are already helping, it’s just not enough for the scale of the crisis the country is in.
Today, a million children are still at extreme risk across the Sahel region – because as well as Niger, similar situations are unfolding in neighbouring countries such as Mali, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso.
We know there is more we can do, more children’s lives we can save before it’s too late. But we also know there’s no way we can do this without help.
Your help may well mean the difference between life and death for some of these children. Please help us give them a chance.
Written by Annie Bodmer-Roy, Media Manager for Save the Children, from a small plane on the way to Maradi, southern Niger.