Empowering women in NigerIn Niger, the agricultural sector employs more than 80% of the nation’s population. Despite making up approximately 40% of Niger’s GDP, agriculture faces poor management of natural resources and lack of access to markets. This restricts economic growth in Niger. Importantly, women make up 49.75% of Niger’s population but face a lack of access to resources like quality seeds and soil. With poor education and gender inequality, women in Niger have a difficult time gaining financial independence. In this situation, the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Niger Compact is key to empowering women in Niger and securing a stable economic future.

Challenges for Niger’s Agricultural Sector

Some of the main issues facing the county’s agricultural sector include a lack of reliable access to irrigation, water for crops and livestock as well as a lack of access to markets. The climate in Niger is hot and dry, but only 10% of crop fields have proper irrigation. As a result of frequent droughts, many people struggle to subsist on revenue from crop production and animal agriculture.

Further, the intense variability of the annual amount of rainfall causes drastic changes in crop yield each year. In addition to environmental factors, farmers in Niger are often unable to access quality seeds and fertilizers. Pests like locusts also often destroy crops. All of these factors work together to create challenges to achieving economic stability and food security in Niger.

Addressing These Challenges

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)  aims to address these challenges in Niger through agricultural grants. Its Niger Compact program focuses on encouraging sustainable use of Niger’s natural resources improving market access. To do so, MCC invests in irrigation systems, improved roads, resource management and climate-resilient crop production. As of June 30, 2020, MCC has given more than $74 million in grants to agricultural enterprises. The organization has also successfully helped fund the renovation of the Konni Irrigation System, Niger’s largest irrigation system. In the future, the improved irrigation system will help boost the economy and improve food security in the nation.

Empowering Women in Niger

As a part of the Niger Compact, MCC commits to empowering women and young people through its grants. Experts believe that if Niger could close its gender gap in the agricultural sector alone, more than 25,000 citizens would escape poverty. While men invest only 35% of their income in their families, women invest 90%. Thus, when women have greater income and spending power, a community’s health and education improves. For example, women who have higher incomes can provide their children with higher protein diets that include more meat and fish. Although the Niger Compact focuses on all entrepreneurs and small business owners, MCC believes that poverty reduction requires empowering women in Niger.

Between October 2018 and March 2020, MCC gave $2.3 million in grants to 25 different agricultural production groups. Women owned or ran 13 of those groups. Beyond financial support, the MCC is empowering women in Niger by providing them with educational opportunities. Along the perimeter of the Konni Irrigation System, the organization is offering free literacy courses for farmers. Of the more than 4000 participants in the course, 56% are women.

The MCC’s Niger Compact is an important step in raising the socioeconomic status of women in Niger. Investing in women allows them to become more active participants in their country’s economy. Accordingly, empowering women in Niger is an important step toward reducing poverty nationwide.

Maddi Miller
Photo: Flickr

sanitation during covid-19COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is often spread through airborne droplets released by breathing or talking and by touching infected surfaces. Good hygiene is therefore an initial line of defense in preventing viral infection. However, hand washing requires access to clean water and effective sanitation. While COVID-19 has changed the way people think about hygiene, the lack of access many people in developing countries have to sanitation during COVID-19 remains the same.

Water Crises and Sanitation During COVID-19

More than one half of people around the world do not have access to high-quality sanitation facilities. Furthermore, COVID-19 has exacerbated this already tenuous water and sanitation situation in many parts of the world. Areas with hotspots, like Cairo and Mumbai, are often crowded with restricted public services.

To manage the immediate effects of COVID-19, governments in developing countries have turned to various short-term solutions. For example, Rwanda has installed mobile hand washing stations, while South Africa has begun to use water trucks. The Chilean government has also suspended water and sanitation charges for citizens. In a pandemic, automated water management systems are especially helpful in reducing loss, expanding access and preserving social distancing. In addition to these governmental reforms, many companies have used technology to shore up water and sanitation during COVID-19 in developing countries. Here are five organizations looking to improve sanitation during COVID-19.

Five Companies Improving Water and Sanitation During COVID-19

  1. Wonderkid: This start-up delivers smart solutions to the city of Nairobi, Kenya. The organization supplies water management software to utility companies to help address customer problems, billing, payments and running water meters. Wonderkid’s smart water meters track non-revenue water that does not reach the customer or leaks out of faulty pipes. Thus, Wonderkid allows water utilities to function more effectively and service more people. As of 2018, Wonderkid had expanded to help 36 utility companies in Mozambique, Nigeria, Malawi and Liberia.
  2. CityTaps: This organization provides poor families in Niger access to water at a much cheaper price than water vendors. Its smart water meters give water utilities more financial stability. Importantly, they can then expand their services to more poor families. This allows companies to meet the current needs for effective hygiene to fight COVID-19.
  3. Drinkwell: Impoverished people in Dhaka, Bangladesh often rely on illicit or expensive water sources. The social enterprise Drinkwell, a brainchild of American English Fulbright fellow Minjah Chowdury, provides water through ATMs. Drinkwell works with mobile service provider Robi Axiata and Dhaka WASA, a local water utility, to do so. It is also collaborating with Happy Tap, a mobile hygiene provider, to provide hand-washing services to people in Bangladesh.
  4. Sangery: Container-Based Sanitation (CBS) like Sanergy are an up and coming sanitation alternative for people in low-income areas. These systems are simpler and cheaper than sewer systems, but they are also cleaner than latrines and open defecation. CBS systems use a container to capture waste, which then turns into fertilizer. Sanergy uses this technology to resolve the sanitation crisis in Nairobi, Kenya. Run by three M.I.T. students, the company provides Fresh Life Toilets that fit into cramped urban dwellings and empty safely. The ability to have a private toilet is essential in practicing social distancing during the pandemic. During COVID-19, Sanergy has also provided 18 hand-washing stations that allow residents to practice good hygiene.
  5. Mosan: Similar to Sanergy, Mosan is a sanitation project based in Guatemala that provides container-based system toilets to people’s homes. The toilets have a durable, urine-diverting design, which keeps urine and feces in separate containers. They cover feces with dry materials like ash instead of water and eventually recycle them into usable fertilizer material. Such innovations make it more likely that people will stay at home during the pandemic. Additionally, Mosan is providing contactless pickup of containers to encourage people to stay home and social distance.

The Future of Sanitation in Developing Countries

COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses in global abilities to provide safe, clean water and sanitation in developing countries. Now, many people lack the water they need to combat the coronavirus. While it is not clear if COVID-19 can spread through human waste, proper sanitation also stops the spread of infectious disease in general.

By shoring up water services and sanitation during COVID-19 in developing countries, governments and other organizations in have provided stop-gap solutions to water and sanitation issues. Technologies like digital water meters, water ATMs, container-based toilets are now saving lives in a new way. Because they help people stay home and keep clean, these solutions allow developing countries to better fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Joseph Maria
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in NigerNiger, officially the Republic of Niger, is a country in Western Africa. It neighbors Algeria, Libya, Chad, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali, and it spans just over 1.25 million square kilometers of land. Niger has faced several violent conflicts in the past. Some of the battles still pose a threat to the country and its 22.3 million inhabitants. Issues regarding inadequate healthcare are one of the several socio-economic problems Nigeriens live with on a day-to-day basis. Here is what you need to know about healthcare in Niger.

Human Development Index (HDI)

Out of 189 countries reviewed, Niger ranked the lowest on the United Nation’s 2019 Human Development Report. The major contributors to the ranking were the country’s life expectancy at birth and the average number of years of schooling. With a life expectancy of 62 years and only two years of education, Niger’s underdeveloped health and education facilities significantly strain them.

Global Hunger Index (GHI)

The majority of health problems stem from malnutrition and inadequate food supply. The Global Hunger Index score provides insights into the critical aspects of healthcare in Niger. The GHI comprises four categories to determine a country’s score: under-nourishment, child stunting, child wasting and child mortality. The higher the GHI score, the more hunger and health issues within the state.

Additionally, Niger’s GHI score in 2000 was at an alarming 52.1 and steadily decreased throughout the years. Five years later, in 2005, the score dropped to 42.2 and is currently at the country’s lowest score of 30.2. A significant decrease in the overall GHI score is because of the individual declines in each category.

Over the years, under-nourishment decreased from affecting 21.6% of the population to 16.5%. Child stunting decreased by approximately 15%, and child wasting decreased by 6% and child mortality decreased by about 14% over 20 years.

Progress Throughout The Years

Furthermore, the healthcare facilities within Niger still lack investments. Through funding and continuing to struggle to provide Nigeriens with quality health, the country has come a long way. It has been almost 20 years since the start of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. With that, Niger has significantly increased the average life expectancy, literacy rate and poverty reduction initiatives.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported Niger to have a life expectancy of 46, a literacy rate of 17% and extreme poverty for 60% of the population in 2005. Since then, much progress has been made in all categories. In 2019, the United Nations and the World Bank reported Niger’s life expectancy as 62, literacy rate as 30% and an extreme poverty rate of 41%.

 Overall, healthcare in Niger still lacks adequate funding and consists of several underdeveloped facilities. However, the country’s continuous work with international organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, UNICEF, USAID and more has led to a steady betterment and progress.

– Omer Syed
Photo: Flickr

Schooling During COVID-19As COVID-19 started spreading, schools around the world shut down. For countries with already poor schooling systems and low literacy rates, the pandemic created even more challenges. The world’s most illiterate countries are South Sudan with a 73% illiteracy rate, Afghanistan with a 71.9% illiteracy rate, Burkina Faso with a 71.3% illiteracy rate and Niger with a 71.3% illiteracy rate. Schooling during COVID-19 has only increased the struggles these countries face as they try to promote literacy.

Literacy is an important aspect of reducing world poverty, as countries with the lowest levels of literacy are also the poorest. This is because poverty often forces children to drop out of school in order to support their families. Since those children did not get an education, they will not be able to get a high-paying job, which requires literacy. Thus, a lack of education keeps people in poverty. If countries with low literacy rates make schooling harder to access due to COVID-19, the illiteracy rate will increase, and the cycle will continue. Below are the ways that the four least literate countries are continuing schooling during COVID-19.

South Sudan

After almost a decade of fighting due to the South Sudanese Civil War, literacy rates are already low in South Sudan, as the war inhibited access to education. The government-imposed curfew in response to COVID-19 forced children to stay home. This especially challenges girls, whose families expect them to pick up housework at home due to gender norms. The government provided school over the radio or television as a virtual alternative to schooling during COVID-19. However, impoverished children who lack access to electricity, television and radio have no other option. This lack of access to education for poor Sudanese children will further decrease literacy rates. As a result, children may be at risk of early marriage, pregnancy or entrance into the workforce.

Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, there was already a war going on when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, creating a barrier to education. In 2019 alone, 200,000 students stopped attending school. COVID-19 has the potential to make this problem worse. Importantly, Afghanistan’s schooling crisis affects girls the most; by upper school, only 36% of students are girls. Further, 35% of Afghan girls are forced into child marriages, and not being in school makes them three times as likely to be married under 18. If they do not finish school, there is a high chance they will never become literate.

COVID-19 may exacerbate girls’ lack of access to school. When schools shut down, the schooling system in Afghanistan moved online in order to continue schooling during COVID-19. But only 14% of Afghans have access to the internet due to poverty. Since many parents are not literate, they cannot help their children with school. School shutdowns may also decrease future school attendance, especially for girls. As such, COVID-19 will perpetuate illiteracy in Afghanistan, with many children missing out on school due to poverty.

Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, school shutdowns have put children at risk of violence. Jihadist violence, tied to Islamic militants, has increased in the country. Violence forces children out of school, with many receiving threats, thus decreasing the literacy rate. Though school was a safe space for children, COVID-19 is making this situation worse.

As an alternative for schooling during COVID-19, Burkina Faso has broadcasted lessons on the radio and TV. However, many students do not have access to these technologies. Even if they do, staying at home does not protect them from violence, which could prevent them from going to school. In Burkina Faso, many children also travel to big cities to go to school. But without their parents being able to help them economically, many are now forced to get jobs, entering the workforce early. This lowers the number of children in school as well as the country’s literacy rate.

Niger

In Niger, 1.2 million children lost access to schooling during COVID-19, lacking even a television or radio alternative. Schools have since reopened, but children still feel the impacts of this shutdown. Before COVID-19, at the start of 2020, more than two million children were not in school due to financial insecurity, early marriage or entrance into the workforce. COVID-19 forced many children to give up schooling forever, as they had to marry or begin work and fell behind in school. As a result, this lowered the country’s literacy rate.

Improving Literacy Rates During COVID-19

While COVID-19 did prevent many children from accessing the education they need, many organizations are working to help them meet this challenge. One of these organizations is Save the Children. It is dedicated to creating reliable distance learning for displaced students, support for students and a safe environment for students to learn.

COVID-19 has left many students without access to education, jeopardizing the future for many. In the countries with the highest illiteracy rates, a lower percentage of children with access to education means a lower percentage of the population that will be literate. Improving literacy rates is key reducing poverty, as it allows people to work in specialized jobs that require a higher education, which then leads to higher salaries. If literacy rates drop, poverty will only continue to increase. This makes the work of organizations like Save the Children crucial during the ongoing pandemic.

Seona Maskara
Photo: Flickr

Photography Fights Child MarriageTwelve million girls a year—or 23 girls every minute—are married before their 18th birthday. The most common factors that contribute to child marriage are poverty, lack of education and gender norms. Around the world, 21% of young women were married as minors. The prevalence of child marriage is even higher in sub-Saharan Africa, at 37% of young women. Various art forms, including photography and music, have been used to advocate for the eradication of this harmful practice. Photography fights child marriage by raising awareness for this pressing issue and empowering women to take action.

Costs of Child Marriage

When young women and girls are forced to marry, they are less likely to attend school. They are separated from their family and friends, and they are also more likely to experience life-threatening complications during pregnancy and childbirth, suffer domestic violence and contract HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, child marriage traps these girls in a cycle of poverty, in which they and their children are less able to access opportunities for education and economic empowerment.

Photography Fights Child Marriage and Empowers Girls

Too Young to Wed, a nonprofit founded in 2012 by photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair, uses photography to raise awareness of the prevalence of child marriage. This organization creates media campaigns focusing on child marriage and uses compelling photojournalism to show that the practice is a violation of human rights. The photographs have been seen by billions, and one media campaign that focused on child marriage in Nepal reached more than 9.7 million people. The photographs, alongside firsthand accounts from girls at risk of or impacted by child marriage, “inspire the global advocacy and policy-making communicates to act,” according to Sinclair.

In addition to organizing photo workshops, this organization provides leadership scholarships, vocational training and other support. The Leadership Scholarship program is especially crucial because education is vital to preventing child marriages. In the last eight years, Too Young to Wed has directly helped 600 girls, and much more indirectly, in its fight against child marriage. Sinclair told Global Citizen, “[Girls] can do all kinds of things that they can bring back to their community and then also bring them out of a level of poverty where the most extreme forms of child marriage are definitely happening.” When young women are educated, their children are more likely to be educated as well, which helps take the family out of the cycle of poverty.  Overall, Too Young to Wed uses visual evidence and storytelling to highlight the harmful impacts of child marriage, empower girls and inspire change.

Tehani Photo Workshop

Since 2016, Too Young to Wed has provided a week-long photography workshop that also functions as an immersive art therapy retreat called the Tehani Photo Workshop. Partnered with the Samburu Girls Foundation, Too Young to Wed held the first workshop in Kenya, where about 1 in 4 girls are married before the age of 18. During this workshop, 10 girls who had escaped their marriages learned how to shoot portraits, and they were able to form friendships and reclaim their narratives. To conclude the workshop, the girls presented their photographs and told their stories to more than 100 members of their community.  According to Sinclair, the workshops aim to “help [the girls] better realize their self-worth and the value of their voice.”

Music as a Tool in the Fight Against Child Marriage

In Benin, where more than 25% of girls are married before they are 18 years old, artists collaborated in 2017 to release a song and music video that highlighted this issue. UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassadors Angélique Kidjo and Zeynab Abib, along with seven other artists, composed the song as part of the national Zero Tolerance Campaign against child marriage. The song is titled “Say No to Child Marriage” and includes multiple languages so its message resonates with people within Benin and in neighboring countries. “Child marriage is a negation of children’s right to grow up free,” said Kidjo. “Every child has the right to a childhood.”

In 2019, the United Nations Children’s Fund worked with music producer Moon Boots and vocalist Black Gatsby to produce a music video to speak out against child marriage in Niger, where 76% of girls are married before the age of 18. Also, according to UNICEF, Niger has the world’s highest rate of child marriage. The song, titled “Power,” promotes education as a positive alternative that can empower girls and reduce poverty in their communities. According to a Félicité Tchibindat, a UNICEF representative in Niger, it also fights against the practice of child marriage by raising awareness that “ending child marriage is possible,” even though it is a long-held social norm.

Conclusion

Although the rates of child marriage are gradually declining worldwide, it is estimated that 120 million more girls under the age of 18 will be married by 2030 if current trends continue. The coronavirus pandemic has also put up to 13 million more girls at risk of child marriage because of rising poverty rates, school closures and hindered access to reproductive health services and resources.

Twenty-five million child marriages have been prevented in the last ten years, and UNICEF attributes the decline of the practice in part to “strong public messaging around the illegality of child marriage and the harm it causes.” While photography fights child marriage, further far-reaching and powerful art initiatives, along with the work of national governments and international organizations, can continue to raise awareness, empower girls and reduce the prevalence of this practice around the world.

– Rachel Powell
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Niger
Niger, a nation in Western Africa, is currently facing a poverty crisis. As of 2019, more than 9.5 million people in the country are experiencing poverty, causing the Human Development Index to rank the nation as the least developed country on earth. A rapidly growing population, frequent climate events such as droughts and floods and limited access to food and water all contribute to Niger’s status as one of the most impoverished countries in the world. However, there is good news — both the nation’s government and outside organizations have made strides, particularly in the last 20 years, towards poverty eradication in Niger.

The government and other contributors have provided the people of Niger with access to food, water, education and contraception. These measures will significantly contribute to poverty eradication in Niger. Three strategies have emerged to fight poverty in the country: involvement of the Nigerien government, food and water security measures and provision of family planning resources.

The Nigerien Government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy

The Nigerien government’s fight to eradicate poverty began in 1997 with the passage of the Framework Program to Combat Poverty (PCLCP). This strategy involved both the country’s government and the private sector in the goal of poverty eradication in Niger.

In 2002, the government released its Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRSP) as an update to the PCLCP. The PRSP contains several ambitious goals, such as creating sustained economic growth and guaranteeing access to social services for the impoverished. The document also features detailed plans on the application of these programs.

Family Planning and Hunger Assistance from Outside Organizations

In addition to the poverty eradication strategy that the Nigerien government proposed, outside organizations have assisted Niger in its growth and development, primarily in the areas of family planning and hunger. Two of the primary issues facing Niger are its incredibly high birthrate, which stretches the country’s resources thin, and its limited access to food and water for its ever-growing population. Organizations including the Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD), the Ouagadougou Partnership and Action Against Hunger, among others, are fighting towards poverty eradication in Niger by providing its people with resources such as food, water, education and contraception.

Food and Water Security

While agriculture and livestock make up 80% of Niger’s livelihood, climate shocks such as droughts and floods have devastated this landlocked country in recent years. These events, as well as limited water access, poor soil quality and a lack of pasture lands for grazing animals, lead to food scarcity for a large percentage of the Nigerien population. A shocking 20% of Nigerien people do not have enough food to eat, with two in five children experiencing malnutrition that turns deadly for one in 10. Groups such as Action Against Hunger have taken the initiative to combat this crisis, providing nearly 500,000 people with nutrition, food security and water programs in 2018. These programs create long-term solutions by providing seeds, livestock and financial assistance to farmers and small businesses.

Family Planning Resources

Niger has both the fastest growing and the youngest population in the world, with women bearing an average of 7.6 children each. Contraception and family planning are taboo subjects, as Nigerien culture associates a large family with social status.

Both SWEDD and the Ouagadougou Partnership have worked to provide Nigerien women to reduce the stigma around family planning. Some villages, such as Angoual Gao in Niger’s Zinder region, have additionally implemented “safe spaces” for women to discuss issues and solutions surrounding family planning.

Both the Nigerien government and outside organizations have taken steps to combat this poverty crisis. While Niger needs to do more work, it has reached many important milestones in the fight for poverty eradication in Niger.

Daryn Lenahan
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Niger
About 20% of people in Niger are food insecure due to a growing population, regional conflict and environmental challenges. Though that percentage is rising, international organizations and governments are finding innovative ways to end hunger in Niger.

Threats to Food Security in Niger

According to the World Bank, Niger’s population is increasing annually by 3.8%, well above the average for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Coupled with a large number of refugees from countries like Mali and Nigeria, an extremely high birth rate is driving Niger’s population growth and ultimately causing food resources to become scarce.

As a result of the conflicts on the borders of Mali and in the Lake Chad Basin, an influx of refugees has migrated to Niger. Further, these regional conflicts have caused widespread displacement among Nigerien citizens domestically, resulting in a major displacement crisis. According to the Norweigan Refugee Council, Niger’s displacement crisis is severe and worsening from the lack of international aid and media coverage. Because food resources are scarce, this displacement crisis is intensifying hunger in Niger.

In addition to the upsurge in Niger’s population, environmental challenges pose a threat to food security. Niger experiences an annual dry or “lean,” season where a lack of rainfall limits crop production and thus lowers the availability of food. A dry season is regular and Niger’s people expect it; however, in the past 20 years, rainfall and temperature have become increasingly irregular, causing more severe food shortages. Nigerians are concerned that desertification and rising global temperatures will only extend and intensify the dry season, disrupting the livelihoods of the majority of rural Nigerien households that rely predominantly on agriculture to survive.

Although food insecurity affects all types of Nigerien communities, it more heavily affects two demographic groups: women and children. Women and children in Niger are more likely to experience malnourishment, which leads to higher rates of anemia. According to the World Food Programme, estimates determined that 73% of Nigerien children under the age of 5 and 46% of Nigerien women are anemic.

The International Community’s Role in Ending Hunger in Niger

Countries like the United States are supporting programs like the World Food Programme, Mercy Corps and Doctors Without Borders to relieve both the immediate and long-term effects of food insecurity in Niger. Each organization takes unique approaches to end hunger in Niger.

The World Food Programme, for instance, focuses on land rehabilitation programs that provide food and financial aid to families who are trying to recover unproductive farmland. The hope is that healthy land will allow agriculture in Niger to be prolific in the future.

Mercy Corps works with mostly Nigerien citizens on projects that encourage people in Niger to diversify their livelihoods in order to ensure that families have several opportunities to earn income in the event that climatic shocks should continue to stunt the agricultural industry. It helped more than 130,000 people in Niger in 2018.

While the World Food Programme and Mercy Corps focus largely on developing a self-sufficient Nigerien economy, Doctors Without Borders works to alleviate the immediate consequences of hunger in Niger by treating acute malnutrition, especially in children. The organization provided 225 families with relief kits in Tillabéri.

While regional conflict, a rapidly growing population and unpredictable weather further food insecurity in Niger, the international community is seeking a multidimensional solution to stimulate the Nigerien economy, end hunger in Niger and help communities flourish.

Courtney Bergsieker
Photo: Flickr

poverty in Niger
Niger is a country in West Africa and is one of the world’s most impoverished nations. Although the country has made significant effort in poverty reduction, Niger’s extreme poverty rate remained at 41.4% in 2019, affecting 9.5 million people. Here are the top 10 facts about poverty in Niger.

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Niger

  1. Niger’s fast-growing population adds to its high poverty rate. The United Nations expects Niger’s population to triple by 2050. As a result, the country’s inability to break the cycle of poverty for impoverished families will increase.
  2. Population Services International (PSI) Corporation promotes family planning resources in Niger. In 2019, PSI partnered with the Nigerien Ministry of Public Health to administer an outreach mission for voluntary family planning to rural areas of Niger. For example, the operation provided long-acting contraception methods and health education.
  3. Niger battles hunger. As of 2015, with a population of 18 million, 81% of Niger’s population lives in rural areas. Due to the rurality, most of the community does not have access to a food market. This exacerbates the problem of food security for the 20% of citizens who do not have enough food.
  4. Action Against Hunger aided 429,301 Nigeriens in 2018. The program provided better access to food markets and seasonal cast-for-work opportunities. Action Against Hunger assisted families by donating seeds and agricultural tools to those in need.
  5. Niger encounters climate challenges. As a country in West Africa, 80% of Niger is coated by the Sahara Desert, causing challenges for agriculture. The dry climate and minimal crop growth force 40% of Nigerien children under the age of five to experience malnutrition.
  6. Frequent droughts harm Niger’s economy. Niger’s economy relies heavily on agriculture, accounting for more than 40% of its GDP. As a result, when the country faces continuous short rainy seasons, there are food and job shortages.
  7. The World Food Programme (WFP) assists Niger’s farmers. The WFP buys produce from local Niger farmers and connects the farmers with corporate markets. This program helps the farmers to gain a steady income and reduce poverty.
  8. CARE Niger transforms the lives of Nigerien citizens. Since 1973, CARE Niger has reduced hunger through its Food Security and Nutrition and Management of Natural Resources Program. The plan established farmer field schools that advocated for markets and nutrition.
  9. Conflicts near Niger’s borders affect its citizens. Thousands of Nigerians have fled Nigeria to Niger due to violent extremism. As a result, almost 23,000 Nigerian refugees arrived in Niger in April 2020 alone.
  10. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) establishes nutritional opportunities for Niger. In April of 2020, USAID announced a five-year plan titled the Yalwa Activity, which plans to bolster the capabilities of Nigerien farmers by mandating access to affordable, safe food. Additionally, the Yalwa Activity will enhance food storage for farmers, allowing farmers to sell their produce at markets across Niger.

With its growing population, harsh climate and troubled borders, Niger remains one of the world’s most impoverished nations. Nevertheless, through outreach and international aid, Niger hopes to reduce its extreme poverty rates.

– Kacie Frederick 
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Niger
Niger is the largest country in West Africa. It is officially named the Republic of the Niger after the famous Niger River. While rates like school enrollment, global economic prospects and life expectancy at birth are estimated to increase in the coming years, it still remains one of the most underdeveloped and poorest countries in the world. Access to proper sanitation still remains one of the largest issues affecting the nation. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Niger.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Niger

  1. In 2016, an estimated 70.8% of deaths were caused by a lack of safe drinking water or proper sanitation. Other leading causes of death include influenza and pneumonia accounting for 27,892 deaths, diarrheal diseases accounting for 16,180 deaths and tuberculosis accounting for 3,842 deaths, all in 2017.
  2. Because of Niger’s quickly increasing population, any progress being made in the sanitation infrastructure and development has been slowed down by the number of people being born. In 2000, the population was around 11.4 million. By 2018, the population had grown to 22.5 million. Niger also has the highest birth rate in the world: in 2011, the birth rate was 7.6 births per woman per year.
  3. The droughts that Niger experienced in the past, from 1950 to around 1980, contributed to sanitation access issues and disease. This also led to lower crop yields, resulting in malnutrition.
  4. In Niger, there are 10 million people who cannot reach clean water. This is in part due to the fact that most of the people in Niger live in rural areas, not urbanized ones. In 2014, approximately 8.2 million people lived in the rural areas of the country that lacked proper sanitation infrastructure.
  5. In 2008, only 39% of the people living in rural areas had access to water, while 96% of the population in urban areas did. Also in 2008, only 4% of people living in rural areas had access to sanitation, while 34% had access to sanitation in urban areas.
  6. There are 18 million people without access to a toilet in the country. This issue of sanitation in Niger leads to open defecation, which also poses health issues. In 2017, 68% of people were practicing open defecation in the country.
  7. Lack of clean water results in 9,800 childhood deaths from diarrhea each year. In 2018, there were 83.7 childhood deaths per 1,000 children.
  8. Part of the reason many people lack access to sanitation in Niger is due to the country’s Water Access Sanitation and Hygiene Program (WASH), which needs to be improved. This is in part due to the rapidly growing population. The goals of WASH cannot keep up with the growth. The drastic differences in living conditions between the urban and rural populations also create complications.
  9. Although wells are dug for water, there are problems accessing them and with contamination. Some wells do not have proper liners, and therefore become contaminated and unusable for drinking. In other cases, women and children have to walk hundreds of miles just to access the water wells.
  10. Niger’s people face problems with diseases from water, especially cholera. The conditions of sanitation in Niger result in water contamination, which resulted in a cholera outbreak in the area from the years 1970 to 2006. In 2004, another outbreak led to 2,178 cases of cholera, resulting in 57 deaths. In 2006, Niger had yet another outbreak, leading to 1,121 cases and 79 deaths being reported.

The Good News

UNICEF is one of the main groups helping the government of Niger with the sanitation issues in the country. The group aims to help provide safer drinking water and better access to sanitation. Another group called Water Aid aims to provide clean water to those in need, along with access to toilets and hygiene. The nonprofit Wells Bring Hope focuses on drilling wells in the rural areas of Niger in order to supply clean drinking water. They also are promoting drip-farming in order to help farmers grow their crops.

While Niger is far from reaching its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) and sanitation concerns are rampant throughout the country, especially in rural areas, there are groups making strides for the nation’s future. With these continued efforts, hopefully sanitation in Niger will improve.

Marlee Septak
Photo: Flickr

Water Access in Niger
In 2004, Niger ranked second to last on the UNDP Human Poverty Index scale. Since then, Niger’s poverty rate of 97.10 has decreased by 3.7 percent. While the poverty rate, based on those living on $5.50 a day, has declined throughout the past decade, 93.4 percent of poverty is still an extremely high value. Such high rates of poverty pose a daunting challenge to organizations attempting to lift Nigeriens out of poverty through endeavors such as implementing better sanitation and water access in Niger. Luckily, the company CityTaps is striving to improve make water access easier for the residents of Niger. 

Sanitation and Health in Niger

There are two systems available: improved and unimproved. The unimproved systems account for everything from open defecation to unsanitary toilets aiding in bacteria growth. In urban areas, 62.1 percent of the population has access to unimproved sanitation facilities. Without reliable access to water, improved sanitation facilities continue to be low in number.

Water Access in Niger

The World Bank has made great progress in improving sanitation and access to water in Niger. In June 2016, The World Bank invested $35 million in the Urban Water and Sanitation Project (PEAMU). Currently, an infrastructure project is underway to improve water treatment throughout the nation, in the hopes of improving living conditions and the Nigerien ecosystem. Although these achievements are making a positive impact, some of these projects are slow-moving, leaving the majority of the population without access to water in Niger. Organizations are seeking to fill the gaps from these international initiatives. 

Technology Behind CityTaps

The internet of things (IoT) has continued to grow with the use of technology to give physical objects more impact on the surrounding communities. IoT works by assigning an IP address to physical objects, which people can then use to track the object along with information about it. People can accomplish this anywhere, including Niger. Water monitoring has become one of the main areas of IoT implementation in north-west countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

CityTaps is utilizing this technology to improve current water meter systems. If people connect to a digital network, they can accomplish better measurements of water usage. In turn, this network is saving on water resources and money by identifying the water movement and the pump’s power consumption.

CityTaps’ Impact on Water Access in Niger

Since its implementation, consumers have begun paying 15 times less than with traditional water meters. Further, many people have gained access to water in Niger. CityTaps has chosen to take the innovative approach of allowing prepayment for water usage, giving people the chance to pay per use versus paying a very large bill. The one-time, large payment is too much for some families, forcing companies to turn off the water. Millions of Nigeriens have unstable or irregular incomes, making it difficult for them to pay monthly bills in full. Additionally, companies often take advantage of people with nonnegotiable bills, resulting in already impoverished individuals accruing more poverty.

Consumers also have access to the account through cell phones, providing constant access to rates of use. Budgeting is much easier with the ease of use through CityTaps. Implementing such technology has benefited over 13,000 people, which has encouraged CityTaps to set higher goals of reaching more people and extending a greater impact. In 2019 and into 2020, CityTaps will begin deployment of an additional 10,000 meters which will result in about 100,000 more people than the original 13,000 people and continue to have ripple effects in consumer’s ability to build up community sanitation and health.

CityTaps’ Longterm Goals

CityTaps’ ultimate goal is to reach 2 million people by 2022. The team behind CityTaps aims to continue developing time, money and water savings for consumers and countries in need of water access improvements. Being a fairly dry country, better usage of water resources in Niger is crucial, especially in the event of droughts. Additionally, saving money for the urban poor allows these families to invest in greater opportunities or otherwise improve living conditions. Finally, women and girls will no longer have to spend long hours retrieving usable water.

Innovation of CityTaps

Similar to other organizations, CityTaps is focusing on improving the quality of life and well-being for the urban poor. CityTaps is paving the way by connecting data from the water utilities and metering to people’s cell phones. This easy-to-use technology aims to remove barriers for Nigeriens to gain reliable access to water. 

Additionally, CityTaps is working to make government utilities become financially independent, allowing investment into water and sanitation infrastructure to further support these communities.

CityTaps understands that access to clean water at home will support the development of sustainable sanitation and health. Water access in Niger has already seen growth with CityTaps technology.

Cassiday Moriarity
Photo: Unsplash