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Niger: the boy in the GAA jersey

I have just returned from a well-run distribution of supplies and cash in a remote part of Niger. The situation is tough, food is in short supply, but our project is working.

 

 I saw many things there, none more surprising than a little boy wearing a GAA Gaelic football top.

Travelling  

Today, I went to see how seeds, fertiliser and cash are being delivered. The distribution took place in Hadi Chino village in the Bambaye commune. To get there, like my journey to Samo, we travelled through an arid and semi-desert landscape, passing the occasional nomadic grouping on the way.

Reducing discrimination

The villagers were notified in advance of the distribution. All project recipients were women. Polygamy is practiced by the Hausa tribe, the largest ethnic group in Niger, and Hausa men can have up to four wives. The distribution of the aid through women means that the risk of individual wives being discriminated against is reduced.

Cash and supplies

Concern consulted in advance with the women to determine if they wished to receive the aid through cash or seeds and fertiliser or a combination of both. Three villages received the first month’s assistance in what will be a four month programme running until September. 

In action

The women queued patiently in the hot sun in groups of ten. When they reached the desk with Concern personnel they provided their fingerprint as a proof of receipt and 20,000 CFA Francs – about €28 – was handed over. The group also received a 50 kilogram bag of seed.

Urgent treatment 

As the well-organised distribution drew to a close, a Concern staff member introduced us to a mother with a severely malnourished child. The child clearly needed urgent treatment in the referral centre in Tahoua. After consultation with the local chief and signing of the necessary papers, it was agreed that we’d bring the woman, her child and husband with us to Tahoua to start the treatment.

Football or hurling? 

Before we left, I briefly searched for a small boy I had seen earlier wearing a GAA jersey. At the time, all the local Concern staff were busy with the distribution and weren’t available to ask the boy where he got the jersey.

It was so strange to see an Irish GAA jersey in such an arid isolated place, surrounded by such harsh and desolate conditions. The questions thus remain: who is the boy in Hadi Chino village, Bombaye commune, Niger, wearing a GAA jersey? How is his life affected by this food crisis? How did he get his jersey? Finally, and most importantly, what team – football or hurling – does he want to play for when he grows up?