Your help needed to avoid famine in Niger
Author: TEAR Fund UK
TEAR Fund is expanding its life-saving work in the drought-stricken Sahel region of West Africa as the situation becomes critical but we need your help to reach the vulnerable fighting the ravages of severe malnutrition in Niger.
Male exodus from Niger's villages as hunger bites
Manno Gayya is something of a rarity in his village, in that he’s one of the few men still living there.
Most of the male folk of Mailo have left the scorched land they farm to go to neighbouring Nigeria, or even further afield, seeking work after last year’s poor harvest. Manno would have gone with them but his wife Hadiza has long term psychological problems, and as a deputy pastor at a local church he has responsibilities that bind him to his community. But while his presence may be unusual, the circumstances he is facing sadly are not.
Not enough help
‘We are really facing a problem. The last harvest was not good enough. Last year I collected ten bags of millet but this year it was less than five and it only lasted 45 days.
‘Normally ten bags would last all year till the next rainy season. The rains came late this time and they didn’t last long. They arrived on 22 June and stopped at the end of September. The grain didn’t develop.’
The 49-year-old father of nine planted millet, the staple food here, in all his six hectares of land. He said, ‘This is the worst crisis since 1984 because we don’t have food and we don’t have money to buy food either. In 1984, the government helped people a lot but this year there’s not enough help.’
To try and make ends meet, Manno hires himself out as a labourer to other farmers, helping them get their land ready for the planting season, while his children earn money by fetching water for people.
His family eat just twice a day and have been doing so since January. We ask to see what they will be eating today. Manno brings out a bowl of millet which is a third less than what they need.
Does he have energy and strength on that diet? He shakes his head and a female cousin listening in says even his eyes are looking heavy. ‘It’s very hard for us to work the land,’ he says.
Yet the strength of his faith seems undiminished: ‘I know from the Word of God that the Lord will never forsake us. Although we are facing problems, Jesus is not far from us and he can do things and there will be change.
‘I ask people to pray that the situation will change and become OK so there will be enough food for the population.’
The poor harvest means not only lack of food for his children but a dearth of income to support them in other ways.
Manno points to one of his boys who has a condition that has resulted in clumps of missing hair, explaining that he can’t afford to take him to the clinic for treatment.
Their education is suffering too: ‘All my children are going to school but their results are not good because they are not eating as much as we would like.
‘Also the teachers asked us to buy the children writing paper but we can’t afford that because of the poor harvest.’
Manno says most people in Mailo are affected like him and a gathering of 50 or so locals seems to bear this out. When we ask for a show of hands about how many meals people eat each day, no hands go up for three meals. Two-thirds put their hands up for two and the remainder say they eat just once a day.
What TEAR Fund is doing
TEAR Fund is distributing emergency food to vulnerable families in Niger but more is needed to avoid widespread
famine, especially if the rains fail or harvests are poor. We are also helping pastoral herdsmen to restock their herds so that they can rebuild their livelihoods and feed their families, supporting grain banks and helping families to replant their crops that have failed.