Like most of the Sahel, Niger is still dealing with the fallout from last year’s drought, which saw many people sell off livestock, harvest early, and sell off seed reserves. Now at the peak of 2012’s lean season, 6.4 million people in Niger alone are facing food insecurity.
What does food insecurity look like? It means maybe having one meal a day, maybe not. It means not knowing whether you will be able to feed your children in a week. It means making decisions about who in your family to feed, and who might be able to survive another day with nothing.
An improved rain forecast has brought relief to some dry pastures, but the need is not gone. It will be months before crops are ready to harvest, and due to the severity of last year’s drought, some will be forced to harvest early.. continuing the drought / poverty cycle.
But this year, Niger has been dealt a double blow by the weather. Weeks of heavy rain at the start of this month have flooded large parts of the country, killing dozens and leaving thousands homeless.
And just because homeless in Niger may mean you’ve lost a mud hut, it does not mean that hut was not a home, nor does it mean it is easy to rebuild.
On arrival in Niger this week, we witnessed a distribution of survival packs for 1000 households in the N’Dounga region, just out of the capital Niamey. Pulling up to the polytechnic turned distribution site, we are told the centre has also been housing hundreds of people for several weeks. There are two toilets, and no clean water. Toddlers are running around naked with swollen bellies, infants are crying.
These packs, funded by Oxfam, provide tents, mosquito nets, buckets, soap, and water purifying sachets. Hygiene is incredibly important now - the flooding has increased the risk of a cholera outbreak - yet another challenge this country is ill equipped to face alone.