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

Life Expectancy in Niger

Life expectancy rates measure the overall mortality of a country in a given year, a statistic affected by countries’ poverty rates. There is a correlation between poor health and poverty that implies those in better socioeconomic classes will live longer, healthier lives than those in lower classes. With a poverty rate of approximately 44.1 percent in 2017, Niger, a landlocked country in Africa also has one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the world. Below are 10 facts about life expectancy in Niger, which explain the challenges the government faces to improve quality of life and the efforts being taken to prevent premature deaths.

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Niger

  1. In 2016, the global life expectancy rate was 72.0 years old and on average, women were expected to live to 74.2 years old while the rate for men was slightly lower at 69.8 years old. A 2018 estimate by the CIA estimates the average life expectancy rate in Niger was 56.3 years old. The rate for women was 57.7 years while men on average lived until 55.0 years old.
  2. One of the biggest factors affecting Niger’s stagnant poverty rates is their increasingly growing population rate. With a 3.16 percent growth rate, Niger has the seventh fastest-growing population in the world. The people of Niger lack adequate resources to feed and shelter the constantly increasing population only exacerbating the mortality rate.
  3. In 2017, the UN ranked Niger as the second least developed country in the world due to their reliance on agriculture. The majority of the population, 87 percent, depends on agriculture including subsidized farming and domestic livestock as their primary means of income. Nearly half of the population of Niger falls below the poverty line a consequence of the limited job opportunities and lack of industry.
  4. In 2017, Niger ranked 189th out of 189 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI), a scale that ranks countries based on three factors: health, knowledge and quality of life. The health factor is determined by the life expectancy at birth while knowledge is determined by the average rate of schooling for citizens and quality of life is measured by the gross national income. Although this index does not account for poverty levels, socioeconomic inequality or human security, Niger’s low ranking depicts a country struggling with healthcare, education and economic prosperity.
  5. The top three leading causes of death in Niger in 2017 were malaria, diarrheal diseases and lower respiratory infections. Comparatively, in the United States, the leading causes of death are heart disease, cancer and accidents. The leading causes of death in the United States are noncontagious and in the case of accidentals, unavoidable. However, both malaria and diarrheal diseases are treatable and communicable conditions that could be prevented with proper healthcare.
  6. Located between three deserts, Niger is one of the hottest countries in the world with a very dry climate. This extreme climate creates inconsistent rainfall patterns, which leads to long periods of drought and widespread famine. Groundwater, the only option for clean water, is often contaminated in wells or kilometers away. As a result, only 56 percent of the population has access to drinking water while 13 percent of the population uses proper sanitation practices.
  7. The people of Niger lack education about proper health practices with 71 percent of people practicing open defecation while 17 million people do not have a proper toilet. The lack of proper disposal for fecal matter affects access to clean drinking water by contaminating hand-dug wells meant to provide clean water to entire villages. This improper sanitation, contaminated water and insufficient hygiene contribute to diarrhea-associated deaths in Niger.
  8. In partnership with European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), UNICEF Niger successfully advocated for the expansion of the national seasonal malaria chemoprevention campaign and the inclusion of malnutrition screening in the country. In 2016, the malaria chemoprevention campaign helped 2.23 million children between three and 59 months suffering from malaria. Also, the incorporation of malnutrition screening contributed to an 11 percent decrease in the number of children with severe acute malnutrition in 2016.
  9. Doctors Without Borders has recognized the need for malaria and malnutrition care in Niger, especially during peak drought seasons. In 2018, Doctors Without Borders treated 173,200 patients for malaria, placed 42,300 people into feeding treatment centers and admitted 86,300 people to hospitals for malaria and malnutrition treatment.
  10. A UNICEF funded branch of the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) program is active in Niger and fighting to increase access to clean water and sanitation facilities to combat open defecation and poor hygiene. Currently, UNICEF is modeling a WASH-approach in 14 municipalities within three regions of Niger with the intent of opening new facilities, strengthening water pipe systems and managing water supply networks.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Niger depict a country attempting to improve the quality of life for its people despite social and environmental challenges. Slowly, with help from humanitarian organizations and nonprofits, the life expectancy in Niger will continue to improve.

Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr

 

10 Facts About Child Labor in Niger
Niger, a country in Western Africa, is one of the most impoverished nations in the entire world. While its economy is growing, many children enter harsh jobs to provide for their families. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Niger.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Niger

  1. Niger has the highest fertility rate in the world. On average, a woman from Niger will have around seven children. The high fertility rate has led to consistent population growth and large family sizes. It is quite common for large families in Niger to hire underage girls as housemaids where they receive poor treatment and make as little as $6 a month. According to UNICEF, “three out of five girls are working in an environment considered as prejudicial to their health and development.” The high fertility rate has led to consistent population growth and large family sizes which makes it difficult for families to sustain themselves solely off their own farming.
  2. The main form of agriculture in Niger is subsistence farming, however, only 11 percent of the land is arable. Even the arable land is extremely dependent on rainfall, with droughts leading to widespread food shortages. When food becomes scarce, Nigerien children, like 12-year-old Oumar Soumana, must drop out of school and look for work to support their families: “It is a painful job for me… I spend the whole day walking. I do not really rest because I have to sell and bring the money back.”
  3. Roughly 48 percent of Niger’s population is 14 or younger. Niger’s population is increasing so fast, its median age is an alarming 15 years old. Food production is not matching the increasing population of Niger. Lack of consistent rainfall makes it very difficult for rural families to avoid malnourishment. When it does rain, families use their children for labor to try and maximize their food production. This is back-breaking work includes hand planting seeds in rough soil during extreme heat.
  4. According to a report by UNESCO, 42.9 percent of Nigerien children between five and 14 are working instead of going to school. This, coupled with only 70 percent of children in Niger completing elementary school, greatly limits their educational opportunities. Article 23 of Niger’s constitution provides free public education, but experts claim that instituting compulsory education would help keep even more children in schools.
  5. The insurgent Islamist group Boko Haram has contributed to Niger’s child labor crisis with its kidnapping of Nigerien children. Boko Haram uses children mainly for menial labor like cooking and cleaning, but in the past, they have used children for suicide bombings. While Boko Haram agreed to stop using children in 2017, there are still thousands of children missing. Additionally, children who formerly worked as child soldiers receive discrimination at an alarming rate.
  6. Many of the children who do not attend school and enter the workforce experience harsh working environments. “Uneducated, these children grow up in very miserable conditions: long working hours, low wages, no food. Furthermore, they run the risk of becoming victims of prostitution, discrimination, abuse, etc.” Additionally, children whose parents did not register them at birth and “lack the appropriate official papers, are not recognized as members of society and cannot exercise their rights.” These children are severely unprotected from life-threatening situations because their rural families were not aware of Niger’s birth registration law.
  7. Part of the reason why child labor in Niger is so prevalent is that the government either lacks regulation prohibiting these practices or it fails to adequately enforce its laws. In 2017, Niger took a significant step forward in combatting its child labor crisis by increasing the minimum age for hazardous work to 18 and increasing the number of jobs under the hazardous label. People under 18 can no longer work at jobs like quarrying, mining, welding and construction.
  8. While article 14 in Niger’s constitution outlaws forced labor, ethnic minorities like the Touaregs have a history of enslavement. Certain Nigerien traditions effectively endorse child slave labor. Whether it be the purchasing of young girls to serve as fifth wives or Wahaya, or koranic teachers forcing their pupils to beg on the streets and surrender their earnings, slavery is still prevalent in Niger.
  9. Niger is not ignoring the unfortunate truth that slavery still exists. With the help of the group Anti-Slavery International, Niger has successfully prosecuted men engaging in the fifth wife practice. This group also joined forces with a local Nigerien organization called Timidria and opened six elementary schools for descendants of slaves.
  10. These 10 facts about child labor in Niger illuminate the issue of child labor that the country must solve. Social programs funded by the Nigerien Government and other nongovernmental organizations like UNICEF are attempting to combat the crisis. In 2017, both of these groups ran 34 centers tasked with providing “food, shelter, education, and vocational training to street children, many of whom are victims of child labor.”

While most of these 10 facts about child labor Niger are disheartening, there is evidence that the situation is improving. For instance, a 45-year-old Nigerien woman named Tatinatt was a slave for the majority of her life, but today she is free and her youngest children are the first ones in her family who are attending school instead of entering the workforce. Hopefully, exposure to this crisis will galvanize more groups into focusing their resources on ending child labor in Niger.

Myles McBride Roach
Photo: Flickr

Pregnant in Niger
Pregnancy can be challenging anywhere, but being pregnant in Niger is often life-threatening. Around 14,000 women in Niger die every year as a result of pregnancy-related complications, with only 29 percent of births attended by skilled medical professionals. Because giving birth at home is a deeply ingrained cultural tradition in Niger, only 17 percent of women give birth in health facilities.

Challenges in Being Pregnant in Niger

The difficulties of being pregnant in Niger are exacerbated by the persistence of gender inequality. Women are often treated as property, with girls being married or even sold off before reaching puberty. Violence against girls and women remains a huge problem, especially because victims have often been conditioned to expect and tolerate these abuses.

Due to limited national resources and inadequate funding, the health care system in Niger is unequal to the task of providing universal care for all Nigeriens and relies heavily on assistance from charitable organizations. In 2015, an evaluation of Niger’s national health policy, led by the World Health Organization, revealed that only minimal progress had been made in the area of maternal health. To address this need, nonprofit groups such as Nutrition International are taking action.

Nutrition International

Nutrition International is an organization “helping more pregnant women and their newborns receive access to essential health care services, medicines and other commodities, including vitamins and minerals.” This initiative includes assessing the prenatal and antenatal care as well as pregnancy outcomes and evaluating the potential barriers to care for Nigerien women. These barriers range from a lack of confidence that prenatal and antenatal care is as important as they are being told to more practical concerns such as being able to afford transportation to medical appointments.

The period of time during and shortly after birth is a crucial one for both mother and newborn child. Unforeseen complications can arise, and without adequately trained health providers as well as the proper medicine and equipment, too many mothers and babies needlessly die. Nutrition International is also making materials available to facilities in Niger to provide care to pregnant and postpartum women as well as to train health personnel to give improved care and counseling to their patients. Furthermore, they are utilizing volunteers within the community to impart to pregnant women and their families the importance of antenatal care.

UNICEF and UNFPA

In 2017 alone, 81 out of every 1,000 live births resulted in the death of the infant before reaching one year of age. UNICEF provides support to the government of Niger to ensure that mothers and their babies receive a “continuum of care,” from prenatal to antenatal and promotes the education of girls, which can decrease the odds of childhood or adolescent pregnancy.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) implemented a program in 2014 called Action for Adolescent Girls. This has played an important role in helping to improve conditions for women who are pregnant in Niger. One important mission of the organization is to ensure that the women, and not young girls, are entering into marriages of their own volition and not being impregnated before they are physically and emotionally ready.

UNFPA sought out and trained local women to serve as mentors to young Nigerien girls, teaching them the basics of female hygiene, reproductive health, literacy and the basics of how to manage money. They were taught that child marriage is illegal and were informed of their other rights as citizens and human beings. Within the first eight-month cycle of the program, this initiative had already resulted in an increase of contraceptive use from 19 percent to 34 percent.

Looking Ahead

The government of Niger continues to work with global organizations to improve the health of prospective and new mothers as well as their children. USAID contributes to this effort with development and humanitarian programs in Niger, all of which are aimed at making the country more self-sufficient. The more financially solvent the country is, the better educated its population will be, ensuring that fertility rates continue to decline while the Nigerien economy continues to improve. With assistance from the U.S. and other wealthy nations, Niger can fulfill its potential and all of its citizens can thrive.

Raquel Ramos
Photo: Unsplash

Crop fields Nigeria
Food insecurity is outlawed by international rule of law. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948, as a minimum standard of treatment and quality of life for all people in all nations. Article 25, section 1 of the declaration states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food.”

Causes of Food Insecurity

Often times, countries that are a part of the U.N. fall short on this promise to provide adequate nutritious food to everyone, including the United States of America. Malnutrition and food insecurity can be attributed to many causes worldwide, from political turmoil, environmental struggles and calamities, lack of financial resources and lack of infrastructure to distribute food equally within a country.

It is widely known that the poorest nations often lack the means or the will to sufficiently supply food to the people and their most vulnerable population, ethnic minority groups, women, and children often suffer the most.

In 2006, the Center for Disease Control reported that widespread media attention in 2005 brought global awareness to a food crisis in the West African country of Niger. According to the report, with a population of 11.5 million in 2002, 2.5 million people living in farming or grazing areas in Niger were vulnerable to food insecurity.

Food Supply Chains

In the United States, conventional food supply chains are used in the mass distribution of food. This method starts with produced raw goods. These products are transferred to distribution centers that may offload goods to wholesalers or sell them directly to food retailers, where these goods are finally purchased by consumers at grocery stores and markets. Food may travel long distances throughout this process, to be consumed by people who may have purchased comparable foods grown closer to home.

In her article entitled Food Distribution in America, Monica Johnson writes, “With each step added between the farm and the consumer, money is taken away from the farmer. Typically, farmers are paid 20 cents on the dollar. So even if the small-scale or medium sized farmer is able to work with big food distributors, they are typically not paid enough to survive.”

Hunts Food Distribution Center is one of the largest food distributors in the United States with over $2 billion in annual sales. According to the New York Economic Development Commission, it sits on 329 acres of land in the Bronx, New York and supplies over 50 percent of food consumed by people in the area, and also supplies food to about 20 percent of people in the region. Still, the Food Bank of New York City reported a meal gap of 242 million in 2014 and food insecurity of 22.3 percent, with 399,000 of people affected being children.

Solution to the Problem

About 13 years after the Niger food crisis the country is still one of the poorest in the world. The World Food Program (WFP), headquartered in Rome, Italy, continues to focus on fixing the problem of food insecurity in countries like Niger. Through helping those like Nigeriens build sustainable livelihoods and ecosystems for crop cultivation, the WFP hopes to lessen the high levels of food insecurity and issues related to it, such as malnutrition and high mortality rates among children under the age of 5.

Assisting locals to manage sustainable local food resources through soil conservation, water harvesting, rehabilitating irrigation systems and reducing the loss of biodiversity among other efforts, the organization focuses on local measures to solve food insecurity issues.

The same is happening in the United States. The country plans to upgrade agricultural facilities and operations, a plan that includes working with other food distributors at the state level to increase integration with upstate and regional food distributors, supporting local farms, and providing growth opportunities for emerging regional food distribution models.

Food insecurity is a big problem in developing, but in developed countries as well. Countries need to make sure to promote local agriculture development in order to achieve food production that will suffice each country needs.

– Matrinna Woods

Photo: Flickr