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Mounting crisis in Niger

“I’m no stranger to crises: that is why I was sent to Niger on January 10, just two days before the Haiti earthquake.” Amanda sent us this report:

Update: Tom Arnold, Concern's CEO, was in Niger now assessing the crisis. Read his latest reports.

Not enough

Millet is the crop that keeps most people alive here in Niger. The majority of the country’s 15.2 million people live by farming or herding livestock. Without rain, they do not earn enough income to get by or grow enough food to eat. 

Crop failures

The rains last year were erratic, when they came at all. That caused massive crop failures and 60% of the country’s population is now facing hunger. Unless immediate action is taken, close to 378,000 children are at risk of severe malnutrition.

Beyond Haiti

A week after I arrived here, I got a call from Haiti from the head of Concern’s emergency unit. They needed extra people, but we agreed the crisis here is going to be big, too. In just a few months, it’s likely that the team in Niger will also be in serious need of emergency reinforcements.

Better prepared 

Niger suffered a major food crisis in 2005 that claimed thousands of children’s lives. No one wants to relive that tragedy. This time around, aid agencies and the local government are more prepared, but the risks are high. 

Mobile phones 

We have already launched a response to the crisis, including an innovative programme using mobile phone technology and text messages to distribute emergency cash. So far, this has reached the most vulnerable women in 160 villages. We’re also doing manual cash transfers at the same time. We’ll be trying to establish which is more effective. 

Innovation  

This work is groundbreaking. It is the first time such mobile emergency cash transfers have ever been used in Niger. It is also the first time they have ever been used in a French-speaking African country. 

How does it work? 

A code is delivered via text message to each recipient. They can use the code to receive cash from mobile dispensing agents operated by telecommunications service provider ZAIN and their newly introduced cash transfer technology ZAP.

In my next blog post, I write about my experiences of this programme in action in the remote village of Ourhamizan. 

You can help

By making a regular donation, you can help ensure that we can respond to emergencies like this.