The landscape is desolate. Not a tree or a bush provides adequate shelter or shade. The wind is howling, children’s faces are streaked with dark lines of tears as the windswept sand hurts their eyes.
Halima is a young women who lives in the refugee camp of Ayorou Niger. She her left her hometown of Tabakota in Mali three month ago with 20 members of her family. “I have a small child you see, so when armed men started shooting, I got scared and left town, actually the whole family did,” she said.
Halima is grateful her family were given millet and vegetable oil. She is particularly happy about the 40kg charcoal bag she stands by. “I will be able to cook for the whole family for about three weeks with this,” she said.
CADEV, Caritas Niger is working in four camps helping 18,000 Malian refugees. They fled there after rebels seized […]
How did the conflict start?
Tuareg rebels led a rebellion in the north of Mali in January 2012 in a bid for independence. The Malian military staged a coup in March 2012 and Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal fell to armed groups. The rebels broke off peace talks at the beginning of January 2013 and subsequently took control of Konna and Diabali, about 400km from the capital, Bamako. One of their aims was to introduce Sharia Law. French troops launched an offensive in early January 2013 and are supported by African troops. They recaptured Konna, Diabli and other towns as well as the airport at Timbuktu.
What are the effects of the conflict on Malians?
The north has seen aerial bombardments and heavy fighting and before the that rebel invasion of towns. Many people have fled the unrest either further south or to neighbouring countries. The UN said there were over 200,000 internally […]
The stability of Mali and its neighbours are at stake. Since early 2012, rebel forces have taken a huge area of land, starting in the north of the country and are now close to the capital, Bamako.
Military intervention led by France and with the support of African countries is underway.
Over 350,000 have fled their homes to go further south or to neighbouring countries since last year. Caritas Mali says that people urgently need shelter, food, water and hygiene articles.
“We’re tired, we’re very tired,” said Ibrahima Diallo, who fled south from his home near Timbuktu, in the north of the country.
Caritas in Mali has been working with Catholic Relief Services (a US member of Caritas) on development projects which have been continuing during the time of unrest.
The director of Caritas in the town of Mopti, which lies in the path of rebel advancement says,“Giving those who have been displaced somewhere […]
“We left our village because we were starving,” said one elderly refugee from Mali. She has come to a relief camp in Mangaizé in northern Niger where Caritas Niger (CADEV) works.
“I left my village when the rebels attacked,” said another woman. “I escaped at the last moment because I could not find all of my children. I’m here with the two youngest ones, but I don’t know what’s happened to the eldest two.”
They’re both new arrivals, coming to join 3000 other refugees from Mali in Mangaizé camp. Some have been here for four months. They’re fleeing conflict in northern Mali between different rebel groups and government forces.
They are also fleeing hunger. Mali is experiencing the same food crisis as much of the Sahel in Western Africa, but the violence means aid agencies can’t get through to people in need, especially in the vast rebel held areas.
“The first refugees who […]
“Don’t cry Adrjiera,” said Momeye to her baby girl. “Don’t suckle so hard. My breast milk is finished as I too must eat.” The 20-year-old mother arrived a day ago in this feeding centre in Saga, a suburb of Niger’s capital Niamey.
Her daughter suffers from severe acute malnutrition, a life threatening condition requiring urgent treatment. Without therapeutic feeding, between a third and a half of cases for under-fives end in death. If the children get the help they need, their chances of survival go up dramatically.
Children and mothers receive the necessary care at the centre, run by the Sisters of Charity with the support of CADEV, the national Caritas organisation in Niger. They regain their strength and are integrated in a regular programme to monitor their health.
At the moment, eight mothers with children in acute danger are hospitalised in the centre. Thirty more less severe cases wait in the […]
“Today is a day of hope,” said Haman Abdou. “With the help of Caritas, I know I’ll have enough to sow my field as soon as the rain begins to fall.”
Haman Abdou is a local farmer living in the Ouallam region, 160 km north of Niamey, Niger’s capital. He is one of the many people who will receive free seeds at a Caritas supported ‘seed fair’ in Koira Bano, a village in the area. It is part of the emergency response launched by Caritas for West African countries in the Sahel region.
“The last harvest was very poor,” he said. “With erratic rainfall and locusts, I have produced almost nothing. I have struggled for months to find enough food for my family. It has been impossible to save seed for the next farming season under these conditions. The seed fair is a blessing for us.”
Local Caritas Emergency Officer Prospère Yougare […]
What is the humanitarian situation in West Africa’s Sahel region?
More than 12 million people will face acute food shortages in the Sahel region of West Africa unless early and effective action is taken now to prevent the crisis.
People in Niger, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad are already suffering from a lack of food with the ‘lean’ season still to come. In the worst affected areas, people have already started to ration food to one meal a day, sell off cattle or leave their farms for urban centres.
We must not wait until there are images of starving children on our TV screens. By acting now we can ensure the food crisis does not deteriorate.
What has led to a food crisis in West Africa?
Poor rains and drought last year and pest infestation means this year’s harvest will not produce enough food. A spike in regional food prices has left people […]
More than 12 million people in West Africa are threatened with food shortages. Caritas says action is needed now.
A poor harvest in 2011 and high food prices risks pushing the people in the Sahel belt stretching across Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Chad, Burkina Faso and Senegal over the edge.
With the hunger season still to come, people across the region have already switched to survival measures such as rationing food, selling off cattle and leaving their farms to urban centres to find food.
It is one of the most under-developed regions in the world even at the best of times with the lives of over 200,000 children lost each year as a result of poverty.
Caritas in action
The Caritas confederation of over 160 Catholic aid agencies is mobilising to meet their needs in this large scale humanitarian emergency.
Caritas works through its national members and the church on the ground. Appeals have been launched […]
“The sound of gunfire woke us up,” said Mr Mahmouda, who fled his village in Mali after it came under attack from rebels. “Although we were not directly threatened, we were scared. We took all we could carry and fled in the direction of Niger,” he told Caritas Niger.
Some 120,000 people have been forced out of their homes in Mali as conflict flares in three out of eight provinces. The fighting comes as the Sahel region of West Africa faces a food crisis predicted to leave more than 10 million people hungry this year.
A small number of Tuareg-led rebels re-ignited their rebellion last month. Bolstered by fighters and weapons spilling out of last year’s conflict in Libya, the rebels, known as the MNLA, have launched a series of attacks against military outposts. The government, which also faces elections and the food crisis, is struggling to respond.
More than 60,000 people […]
Deadly hunger once again stalks Niger. It affects people like Abdoulai and his family in the dry, sandblasted village of Toudoun Jaka. The rain never came here last year; the land cracked and Abdoulai’s fields produced less than a single bag of millet, not enough for his children for a week.
Abdoulai has become used to the burning stomach and painful joints caused by hunger. But the worst, he says, is when your sight blurs. “If someone is walking past you, it will seem like two people. When the sun goes down, you can’t see at all.”
The village emptied out as men tried to find work in the capital, Niamey. Abdoulai stayed, scraping up occasional work at $2 a day crushing rock in a nearby gold mine. In an exploratory mission, Caritas Niger (CADEV ) discovered other half empty villages, with fields untilled and schools closed. In some, people were […]
The food situation has been stabilised in the Sahel region, especially in Niger where the number of people at risk of malnutrition fell from more than 60% to around 6% over the last months.
Now, it is crucial to take further action at this point, says Raymond Younoussi Yoro, Secretary General of Caritas Niger.
How is currently the situation in terms of food security in Niger?
Mr. Yoro: There has been considerable improvement in the food security over the last months. According to recent statistics, there are now 68 vulnerable areas in Niger, and only 11 in a critical state, compared to 211 vulnerable areas in December 2009. We are optimistic considering the upcoming harvest. It should be quite good. However, 6 percent of the population remain at risk, especially in some regions in southern Niger that have suffered from rodent plagues.
What kind of problems remain?
Mr. Yoro: We are very worried about the situation […]
By Lane Hartill, Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
Habsu Boubacar has got used to being hungry.
The burning stomach, the blurred vision, the joint pain: Habsu has learned how to work through aches, how to force herself to go on.
Growing up in Toudoun Jaka, a sand-blasted village full of skeletal cattle and bone-thin dogs that slink through the sand, Habsu learned how to cope.
She learned how to mix water and millet husks—the stuff she normally feeds to the goats and sheep—and make a sludgy drink. She learned how to gulp the brown, gritty stuff so the bitterness doesn’t sit too long on her tongue. She got used to the feel of it in her stomach; it fills a space, so she can feed the real food to her four kids.
What she hasn’t got used to is anza. The plant is “famine food” and only the hungriest donkeys would nibble at it during […]
Nigeriens ran out of food months ago, now the situation is desperate. Half of the people in this landlocked West African nation now don’t have enough to eat. People are eating leaves and livestock feed in order to survive.
While hunger in Niger is nothing new, this year is particularly bad. Rains failed last year and in some areas, almost nothing was harvested. Nigeriens have been forced to sell off their livestock, basically their “savings”, before the animals die. In the face of this crisis, Caritas is distributing food, putting people to work and helping those in the greatest need.
As cattle die and nutritional centres fill up with hungry and sick children, there’s no surer sign that the people of Niger desperately need your help.
Read the story of how hunger has taken hold of the lives of Habsu Boubacar and her four children.
Food emergencies are not inevitable in the Sahel according to Caritas. The region and the international community need to show greater political will to fight the problems.
“The recurrent food crises are essentially a political problem, worsened of course by droughts and difficult natural conditions “, said Fr. Ambroise Tine, Secretary General of Caritas Senegal.
The Sahel could face a devastating food crisis this year. Millions are at risk of famine and malnutrition in West Africa, especially in Niger, Chad, northern Burkina Faso and northern Nigeria.
Experts believe that the coming emergency could be particularly serious, mostly because of the bad harvest and floods in several countries last year.
“The governments of the Sahel countries are not doing enough to fight the problems, especially the lack of water supply and price speculations on the markets. Competition caused by massive agriculture subsidies in developed countries only worsens our problems”, said Fr. Tine.
At the end […]