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Niger: fighting hunger with phones

We’re using mobile phones to help the most vulnerable people in Niger. How does it work? Amanda McLelland of Concern’s emergency response team found out.

I drove for two and a half hours to a remote village called Ourhamizan to see our mobile phone programme in action. A crowd of women were waiting for us. These women, regardless of their tough circumstances, came with pride and dignity, dressed in clothes full of colour. 

Identification

We distributed special identification cards for each of the 13,000 women who will benefit from our cash transfer programme. They have no other form of official ID. I will save the story of how we took 13,000 photos in remote villages for my next blog post! Each woman also received 20,000 cfa (approximately $42), which is enough for an average size family to buy food for a month.

What’s wrong?

The women accepted the money and ID cards with smiles and thanks, but they seemed subdued, which worried me. This was supposed to be the difference between eating and not eating for the next month. My mind was racing: maybe the money was not enough? Maybe we targeted the wrong people? Maybe after all the planning, we got it wrong?  

The first time

And then I saw that under a tree, about 100 meters down the road, 30 women were gathered, full of excitement and giggling like schoolgirls as they compared ID cards. This was the first time most of them had ever seen a photograph of themselves!

Best behaviour 

I learned that their village chief had asked them to be on their best behaviour while they received their money. But as soon as they were out of his sight, they let loose and showed their excitement, eagerly talking about their trip to the market tomorrow and how they would now be able to buy what their families needed most. 

Good and bad news

The good news is that we are reaching these women early, giving them the resources to buy food for their families before hunger reaches emergency level. But the bad news is that we are facing huge challenges. Despite all our efforts, we need to continue and intensify this work to prevent Niger from spiralling into a catastrophe.

You can help

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