Review of Niger’s Progress Toward the Sustainable Development Goals

by Michelle Nelson von Euw

As the five-year anniversary of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda approaches, many nations are beginning to assess whether and how they are achieving these targets and indicators set by the United Nations. To summarize, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a collection of 17 international development objectives set by the United Nation’s General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030. The development problems addressed by the 17 SDGs range from improving general well-being, education, and clean water practices to combating poverty, hunger, and detrimental climate change. The 17 SDGs are monitored by 169 targets. Within each target exists one to three indicators, which are used to monitor success and evaluate whether the targets are  met. The ultimate goal of the SDGs, as outlined, is universal progress toward a more equitable and sustainable world.

Source : The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Last year, the United Nations released a Voluntary National Review on their SDG Knowledge Platform outlining Niger’s progress within the SDG framework as well as a commitment from the country to submit an additional report in 2020. The report focused specifically on the programs that have either already spurred progress toward the SDGs or were recently implemented. At the core of Niger’s success is the Economic and Social Development Plan (PDES) 2017-2021, which focuses on 43 of the 169 targets and 66 of the 232 indicators outlined in the SDGs. This program was designed with the goal of creating a well-governed country built on equality and a sustainable economy. Through  this program, access to water and sanitation services has improved on a national level, moving the country closer to accomplishing SDG 6: Clean Water. Unfortunately, however, there is still a disparity between urban and rural areas in the use of basic sanitation services. With the continued support of government programs, the Republic of Niger hopes to rectify this by their next reporting period of 2020.

The PDES outlined improvements for two of the SDGs. For SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, the PDES suggested improving living conditions for urban populations through strengthening waste management and counter-pollution programs. For SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, the PDES recommend adopting a decade long framework dedicated to cultivating a culture of responsible consumption of resources and energy. This framework also ensures that any waste resulting from these consumption or production processes is minimal. In an effort to reach more targets and indicators for SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy, Niger adopted a National Renewable Energy Action Plan which aims to reduce the use of biomass as a central energy source and to shift to clean fuels and technologies.

While there is still a great deal of improvement to be made before the 2030 deadline of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Republic of Niger has made great strides toward creating a more sustainable environment for its citizens through the effective use of government programs. The Voluntary National Review 2020, when released, will indicate just how successful these programs have been.

References:

“Niger .:. Voluntary National Review 2018.” United Nations – Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, United Nations,

“Social and Economic Development Plan.” Niger Renaissance Conference,

“Sustainable Development Goals .:. .” United Nations – Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, United Nations,

2019 Successes

As we start to think about the holidays and the end of the year, we thought we’d share photos of just a few of the wells that you made possible in 2019.

On behalf of the people of Niger, thank you. Nagode!


Linlingou

Completed February 7, 2019
Serves 300 people
Funded by Noosh Brands


Ouroutchale

Completed March 16, 2019
Serves 566 people
Funded by five individual donors


Alfaga Koira

Completed March 20, 2019
Serves 389 people
Funded by Katelynn’s Water Circle


Kourfadje

Completed May 1, 2019
Serves 747 people
Funded by Bliss Car Wash


Harikouka School

Completed April 30, 2019
Serves 182 people
Funded by Stanley Black


Tchamangal

Completed May 3, 2019
Serves 388 people
Funded by 14 individual donors


Dan Madatchi

Completed July 12, 2019
Serves 810 people
Funded by the Million Dollar Round Table and 14 individual donors


Anabouta 2

Completed September 23, 2019
Serves 267 people
Funded in memory of Cely Arndt


Anabouta 3

Completed September 23, 2019
Serves 267 people
Funded by the Wells Bring Hope Club at Chadwick School


Garin Maizouma

Completed September 23, 2019
Serves 319 people
Funded by  Bliss Car Wash

The Magic Tree

By Elsa Sichrovsky

In a country like Niger that is three-quarters desert[1] and has an eight-month dry season[2], drought is a constant threat. With extremely limited natural resources, aggressive grazing and farming practices take an enormous toll on the environment. Add a rapidly growing population and a strained ecosystem, and the result is food and water shortages. In the 1980s and 1990s, with the help of foreign NGOs, Niger’s government strove to alleviate the crisis with massive tree-planting programs, but sadly less than 20% of planted trees survived due to poor execution of the program. Locals were not involved or educated about the importance of reforestation, so most of the trees were cut down for firewood or to feed animals.

However, one reforestation technique has proved massively successful, resulting in 200 million new trees in just a few decades. No international organizations funded this project, rather, it is headed by local farmers. What’s more, it does not involve planting trees. It involves protecting trees.

A few decades back, Nigerien farmers noticed that crops planted under the Gao tree (winter thorn) yielded were four times more productive than those planted on fields without Gao trees. Unlike most other trees, the Gao tree loses its leaves before the rainy season and grows them during the dry season.  The Gao tree’s leaves drop and fertilize the ground just before planting season, making the soil beneath the tree so full of nutrients that additional enrichment is not necessary. The Gao tree’s massive root system draws nitrogen from the air into the soil, naturally fertilizing crops sown near the tree.

Source – Roger Culos

The Gao tree isn’t just important to the men who farm for their families,but also to the women who make medicine with Gao tree bark that they sell to neighboring villages. This additional income is put into the village women’s joint fund. Gao tree pods make nutritious animal feed, and fallen branches are used for firewood. In areas where Gao trees abound, women and children are saved from  walking many kilometers to find animal fodder and fuel for their families.

Because of all the uses of the Gao tree, villagers came to see the trees as a community resource that they needed to protect and nurture. In some areas, locals have organized patrols to protect the Gao trees from neighboring farmers or those seeking to cut trees for firewood[3]. In one village, a person caught cutting a Gao tree must be brought before the chief to explain his or her actions. If caught again, he/she will be fined[4]. In areas densely populated with Gao trees, World Agroforestry Centre scientists have observed that local farmers protect Gao trees by pruning the shoots and building thorn fences around saplings during the grazing season.

Niger’s success with protecting the Gao tree has attracted farmers from Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria to come to Niger to learn natural regeneration techniques–and has put Niger in newspaper headlines for positive reasons, which is a rare  occurrence for this struggling nation. Abasse Tougiani of Niger’s National Institute of Agricultural Research sums it up: “It’s a magic tree, a very wonderful tree.”

By helping Wells Bring Hope, you can bring some “magic” to Niger, too. Wells Bring Hope is the only safe water cause that provides women with microfinance training and continues working to educate and train villagers for 15 years after a well is drilled. Farmers are trained in water-conserving drip farming techniques[5]. Every well that Wells Bring Hope drills is a gift that keeps on giving.

[1] http://www.worldagroforestry.org/sites/default/files/Niger%20booklet%20-%20Prepublication%20version_2.pdf

[2] https://www.voanews.com/africa/nigers-farmers-and-cattle-ranchers-nurture-giving-tree

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/16/regreening-niger-how-magical-gaos-transformed-land

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/16/regreening-niger-how-magical-gaos-transformed-land

[5] https://wellsbringhope.org/what-we-do/

The Women Revolutionizing Music in Niger

By Caroline Moss

Every culture enjoys music regardless of its purpose. Whether it’s a tradition, used to sooth a child, or to tell a story, music is a part of our lives no matter where we live. Culture shapes music, and music undoubtedly influences culture. Music offers an outsider insight into unfamiliar cultures and into the lives and emotions of people they’ll never meet.

A group of women, within the Tuareg society, are revolutionizing Niger’s traditional village music. The Tuareg are a group of nomadic people living throughout the Sahara. The society is known for it’s style of traditional folk music called Tende, in which a guitar and a goatskin drum are played. Tende music is characterized by the drum, the style of playing and the events during which it is played. Tende music is often played by women and typically performed at ceremonies and festivals. It also serves as a activity for evening entertainment.

Source : Direct Relief

Connecting the world of tende music to the modern world is a woman named Fatou Seidi Ghali. In her small village of Illighadad in central Niger, Ghali secretly taught herself  to play the guitar. With her cousin, she formed the group Les Filles de IIllighadad, which translates to The Girls of Illighadad. In Niger, the guitar is typically played by men who used it to replace female vocalists when performing tende. Ghali is one of only two known female Nigerien guitarists.

With gender norms informing music throughout Niger, Ghali is breaking new ground as a leading female guitarist. Her group is not only reclaiming the importance of the Tuareg guitar, but also empowering women to innovate their traditional music and create an entirely new genre of music. Les Filles mostly performs folk songs that they grew up with and adapted to be played with the traditional tende drum and the acoustic guitar. In 2016, the duo released a six-song self-titled LP recorded by Sahel Sounds,which featured the group in their hometown to transport the once rural sounds to the world in 21st century. In 2017, the group toured Europe to celebrate their talents and inspire other women.

Ghali invested her earnings in cattle for her family to show women the power of music and what it has made possible for her and her family.  Currently, Ghali might be only one of a few women guitarists in Niger, but she is helping to bring attention to her village and paving the way forward for other women.

Listen to  Les Filles de Illighadad here.

 

CITATIONS –

Beyond, Strange Sounds From. “Les Filles De Illighadad: Daughters of the Desert.” STRANGE SOUNDS FROM BEYOND

“Eghass Malan, by Les Filles De Illighadad.” Les Filles De Illighadad, 28 Oct. 2017

Hird, Alison. “World Music Matters – Les Filles De Illighadad Strum out a Unique Tuareg Sound.” RFI, RFI, 13 July 2017

“How Les Filles De Illighadad Is Revolutionizing Traditional Tuareg Music.” She Shreds Magazine, 4 July 2019

 

Littattafan Soyayya: The Love Stories Hausa Women are Telling

By Elsa Sichrovsky

Almost half of Niger’s population belongs to the Hausa ethnic group, so Hausa language and culture are essential to Niger’s ethnic melting pot. In recent years, a new and exciting genre of Hausa literature has been changing the lives of women in Niger and northern Nigeria. This new literary movement originated in Kano, Nigeria and is driven entirely by novels written by women. These novels are known as Kano Market Literature because they are sold as affordable 18-20 page pamphlets in the marketplace. In Hausa, they are called littattafan soyayya (romance literature), since many of the early novels portray romantic love affairs. Written by single women, wives and mothers, these novels fearlessly tackle issues like extramarital romance, polygamy, child marriage, divorce and sexual abuse[1]. Despite strict governmental censorship and social stigma against female writers, Kano Market Literature has become a major channel through which women can tell their stories.

During the 1990s, littattafan soyayya writers came under fire for depicting sexual relationships outside of marriage, which some believed would promote sexual immorality. In 2001, a censorship board was established to screen out potentially offensive content. A dark moment for littattafan soyayya writers came in 2007 when the then-governor of Kano publicly burned littattafan soyayya novels as being “pornographic”[2]. With time, the government has relaxed its censorship and now Hausa writers are free to express themselves in the romance genre. They now enjoy greater social respect and are invited to give lectures in universities[3].

Source – Technology and social change

Nigerian author Balaraba Ramat Yakub is the leading author of the littattafan soyayya genre, and the English translation of her novel Alhaki Kuykuyo Ne…(Sin Is a Puppy That Follows You Home) introduced Hausa female literature to the English-speaking world. Her novel describes the oppression and abuse suffered by Rabi, a woman married to a man who visits prostitutes while barely giving her enough money to feed their nine children. The novel was turned into a film and Balaraba Ramat Yakub has engaged in several successful film ventures[4].

Despite these success, littattafan soyayya writers still face numerous challenges in sharing their stories beyond the French-speaking world. Very few Hausa novels have been translated into English, and even fewer are available on the internet[5]. Within Nigeria and Niger, littattafan soyayya has unfortunately been stereotyped as cheap pulp fiction that merely centers on girlish romances, leading to its disappearance from respectable journals and the national press. However, a ray of hope was seen last year in BBC’s Hausa Short Story Writing Contest for Women, which brought Hausa female writers into the international spotlight[6].

Acting editor of the BBC Hausa Service, Jim Saleh noted that “women in Africa have been known to be great custodians of folklore and gifted moonlight story telling[7]”. There are so many extraordinary and remarkable women in Niger, but in a country with 11.04% literacy rate among women[8], no doubt many stories have been left untold. By drilling wells and freeing women to pursue education, Wells Bring Hope is making it possible for more Nigerien women to share their stories. Become a part of that mission! Let your friends know about Wells Bring Hope by sharing on social media, or volunteering if you can.

 

[1] https://www.wired.com/2016/02/glenna-gordon-diagram-heart/

[2]https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/katebubacz/meet-the-women-behind-nigerias-most-subversive-novellas

[3] https://www.wired.com/2016/02/glenna-gordon-diagram-heart/

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balaraba_Ramat_Yakubu

[5] https://www.blueprint.ng/towards-reviving-comatose-kano-market-literature/

[6] https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2018/safiyya-jibril-bbc-hausa

[7] https://www.blueprint.ng/towards-reviving-comatose-kano-market-literature/

[8] https://countrymeters.info/en/Niger#literacy

International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development, 2018-2028

by Michelle Nelson von Euw

“Access to water and sanitation is a precondition to life and a declared human right.” – United Nations

As evidenced by the frequency with which it appears in the Sustainable Development Goals, access to clean, well-managed water, for both consumption and sanitation, is vital for human development. Any level of water scarcity creates a major threat to health and nutrition. It is also a major impediment to social change, particularly around issues of gender equity. Water is at the center of sustainable development. As of 2018, 40% of the world’s population suffers from some form of water scarcity, be it for drinking or for cleaning. This dramatic deficit is the result of a number of factors, including expanding populations, climate change, and natural disasters. The World Economic Forum, which ranks global risks, listed water crisis in the top three for third consecutive year.

Due to the urgency of this issue, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the period from 2018 to 2028 the International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development. This is a necessary step to ensure that all UN member states achieve the ambitious goals set in the 2030 agenda  for increasing access to safe water. Through this program, all UN members are encouraged to respond to the water crisis as efficiently and effectively as possible, and to make a concerted effort  to reach the collective goal of eradicating water scarcity around the world. Goals for this decade, which concludes on World Water Day 22 March 2028, have been built on the achievements of the previous “Water for Life” decade which took place from 2005 to 2015.

Source : Orazgeldiyew

The “Water for Life” decade was considered successful by many as it focused the attention of the international community on the water crisis, and made improvements seem attainable. Prior to this decade, the water crisis was complicated by technical discussions that did a poor job of outlining how water is related to other areas of development. The focus on “Water for Life” sparked conversations which made clear that water-related issues had to be on the political agenda, both locally and internationally. Further, the decade put mechanisms in place that created specific plans for the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of water-related objectives. The improved coordination on water policy paved the way for the International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development.

The resolution for 2018-2028, as stated by the UN, outlines goals that focused on:

  • the management of water systems that support environmental, social, and economic objectives;
  • the execution and promotion of water-related projects and programs;
  • the advancement of cooperative partnerships with the goal of achieving the water-related targets and goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The new decade, which underlines the importance of intergovernmental coordination, includes a  number of country-level implementation mechanisms that support action at every level (private, social, NGOs, and governments). Using the knowledge gathered through the “Water for Life” decade on the various dimensions of inequality related to the distribution of basic water, sanitation, and hygiene services, the International Decade of 2018-2028 is working to achieve equality in areas related to wealth and gender in order to support successful improvements in water accessibility for everyone.

 

References:

“2018-2028 International Decade for Action, ‘Water for Sustainable Development’: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.” UNESCO – Brazil, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, www.unesco.org/new/en/brasilia/about-this-office/prizes-and-celebrations/2018-2028-international-decade-for-action-water-for-sustainable-development/.

“International Decade for Action, Water for Sustainable Development.” United Nations, United Nations, www.un.org/en/events/waterdecade/background.shtml.

A Ten Year Story – The Water for Life Decade 2005-2015 and Beyond. United Nations Office to Support the International Decade for Action, 2016, pp. 64–87.

“Water Action Decade .:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.” United Nations, United Nations, sustainabledevelopment.un.org/wateractiondecade.

“The World Water Development Report.” International Decade for Action, 27 Feb. 2018, wateractiondecade.org/2017/12/15/the-world-water-development-report/.

Our 11th Annual Fundraiser is a Fabulous ’50s Bash

On Sunday, September 22rd, philanthropist, Stanley Black welcomed Wells Bring Hope back to his home for the sixth year in a row for its 11th Annual Fundraiser where we raised enough money to fund 35 wells! It was a Fabulous ‘50s Bash and many guests celebrated the theme with poodle skirts, bobby socks, and other hints of the era.

Guests nibbled on delicious food from TGIS Catering and sipped wine donated by Le Vigne Winery. Guests also enjoyed the “Pink Poodle,” a refreshing vodka drink topped off with fresh strawberry puree and mint, while the Wonderelles kept everyone entertained.

While everyone mixed and mingled, the capable volunteers enticed guests to bid in the silent auction.  This year we offered exciting gift certificates to some of LA’s best restaurants including Nobu Malibu, Cassia, and AOC. Getaways to resorts in Santa Fe, Santa Barbara, and Scottsdale as well as more urban escapes in New York City also got lots of bidding. Thanks to everyone who bid and made the auction lively and fun!

At the close of the silent auction, guests moved to the back lawn where they were welcomed by Founder and President, Barbara Goldberg. She began by acknowledging the generous WBH’s corporate and event sponsors and partners who made the fundraiser possible. Those partners included Bliss Car Wash and its owner/founder, David Delrahim. We were also delighted to have the support of first time sponsor, American Business Bank as well as returning sponsors City National Bank, Noosh Brands, Merrill Lynch, Avitas Wealth Management, and Self Love Cosmetics.

The presentations featured a new video produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker Mellissa Tong of DuckPunk Productions with narration by Sahlima, a long-time supporter of Wells Bring Hope who was born in Niger. Guests were very moved by powerful images and the story that was told.

This year, WBH was proud to honor its long-time supporters, Marsha and Mark Hierbaum who have been matching donors for the past five years. Gil Garcetti presented the Hierbaums with an award in recognition of their ongoing generosity and support for Wells Bring Hope.

Grant Snyder, auctioneer extraordinaire, took the stage for the seventh year in a row, helping us raise lots of money for wells.  He auctioned off exciting trips to Bali, Santa Barbara, and Santa Fe. For the seventh year in a row, Turkish Airlines generously donated two business class tickets to any of their European destinations.

We were fortunate to have three matching donors, Marsha and Mark Hierbaum who contributed $50,000 in matching funds for Raise the Paddle, the Waters Foundation, which contributed $15,000, and the Margaret M. Bloomfield Foundation, which contributed $7,500 in matching funds.

Thank you to all who came to support Wells Bring Hope’s effort to save lives with safe water! Thanks to our generous donors, capable volunteers, and especially to our event planner, Peggy Kelley of Timeless Celebrations who made the event a tremendous success! Thanks to this incredible team effort, 35 more villages in Niger will experience the transformative power of a safe water well.

To view and download all of these photos and more, please check out the album on the Wells Bring Hope Facebook page. Photographer Tatsu Ikeda was with us once again, and we are so grateful to him for his incredible photography, which will help us to memorialize the event.

The Water Issues around the World

by Raphaela Barros Prado

Water and climate change have been two of the biggest environmental themes discussed around the world for decades now. We know that water is a treasure and a limited resource in many places in the world. This is particularly true in Niger where the limited water that is available may be contaminated.

663 million people in the world don’t have access to clean and safe water, and every 21 seconds, a child dies of a water-related disease. According to WRI (World Resources Institute) there are 17 countries that are experiencing extremely high water stress, and many are getting worse mainly because of the human-caused climate emergency. Among the 17, a dozen of these countries are located in the Middle East and North Africa.

Last month, there was major discussion around the future of the Amazon forest in Brazil, which has been disappearing for decades because of the deforestation and is now in the news due to rampant wild fires. The Amazon forest is known as the lungs of the world, and for this reason, there are many organizations around the world dedicated to supporting reforestation and keeping the forest alive. The Amazon matters to the global climate because it is a sink of carbon, mitigating warming. If the rainforests were to die back, large amounts of greenhouse gases normally absorbed by the trees of the Amazon rainforest would have no where to go and global warming would increase.

The world climate matters to the Amazon too. It is sensitive to changes in temperature, rainfall, and atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels. The Amazon basin, most of which sits within the borders of Brazil, contains 40% of the world’s tropical forests and accounts for 10-15% of the biodiversity of Earth’s continents. Over the last century, the region has suffered a series of severe droughts. Water from frequent rainfall, is vital for this huge area. With increasing deforestation and rising temperatures, the forest’s capacity to water itself has been weakened. In 2012, scientists at the University of Leeds predicted that continued deforestation would cause rainfall in the Amazon to drop by 12% in the wet season and by 21% in the dry season by 2050. This would have an extremely negative impact on the future of the forest.

Other countries like Libya and Yemen also have significant issues with their water resources. Libya’s local water resources have never been reliable, and the added stress of regime change has cut off water for much of the country’s population, including the capital Tripoli. The country goes through frequent and severe stretches without fuel, food and water. Yemen, which suffers with constant territorial conflicts and is a waypoint for terrorists traveling through the Middle East, ends up being in a weakened position to receive aid, which would include fresh water.

There is a difference between a country that has little water but enough resources to buy all it needs and an undeveloped country that has neither. Gulf nations like Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait top the list in the ratio of available local resources per person, and thanks to their abundance of oil, they are capable of trading one precious liquid for another. They are also capable of financing desalination efforts.

The World Resources Institute released a recent post about ways that communities and countries could reduce the water stress. The first step is to increase agricultural efficiency by using seeds and irrigation techniques that require less water and invest in developing technology that improves farming, and cutting back on food loss and waste. Another way is to invest in “grey” and “green” infrastructure, improving everything from pipes and treatment plants to wetlands and watersheds or even to treat, reuse and recycle “wastewater.”

The water crisis is a complex problem with a variety of possible solutions that must be customized to the specific needs, resources, and challenges of the region in need. For example, desalination is clearly not an option in a landlocked nation like Niger, but the nation’s underground aquifers provide an endless supply of safe water. Wells Bring Hope is proud to be one of thousands of organizations around the world that are tackling the global water crisis with efficient, sustainable, and targeted solutions.

With your help we can always go further and save more lives! Let’s all do our part!

 

A Personal Insight on the Importance of Water 

by Catalina Macedo Giang

Source: Jason Patel

When I was growing up, my parents stressed the importance of exercise to keep me healthy and fit while I went to school and sat in a classroom for eight hours every weekday. When I was in 9th grade, I joined my high school’s cross country team and would run on our track and around the neighborhoods that surrounded my school. 

As a southerner in the US, I was accustomed to a hot climate and humid weather that reached its peak between 12 and 4 PM. During those hours, the sun shines high and clear in the sky and there is no escaping its burning rays. 

It was during these hours when I was running with one of my cross-country teammates after school one day. There was no shade to be seen, and as the minutes passed, my teammate and I felt like we were being stewed in the fiery glare of the sun. My back and legs and arms were burning, and slowly but surely, my mouth and throat grew dry. I ignored this feeling and kept running.

Finally, my teammate suggested we turn back. I agreed, because I hate running alone. This decision was the best one I could have made that day. We had run over four miles away from the school, and as we began the journey back, I felt exhausted and sluggish, faint and overheated. We were close to the school when black spots began to appear in my vision, and the feeling of relief that we were in a safe distance to a water source made me forget about my cracked lips and sandpaper dry throat—for a moment anyway. 

It wasn’t until that day that I truly valued water in my life. Water is everything. It is my fuel, my energy, my breath and so many other things that make my life what it is. Water is the one universal substance everyone needs in order to live and function and grow. Without water, there would be no life.

Unfortunately, safe water is not universally accessible. According to the Global Health and Education Foundation, over 64% of Niger’s rural population does not have access to clean water in this drought-ridden country. As someone who has easy access to a plentiful supply of clean water, these conditions are difficult for me to understand. However, situations like Niger are reality, and recognition is key if we wish to help. And every bit of help counts–even if it’s just writing blog posts about the issue, it allows people to learn about the global water crisis. As more people decide to help out too, whether by writing articles, donating money, or volunteering, I think it’s very possible we can make a difference in Niger.

The Deadly Consequences of Unsanitary Water

By Catherine Cheng

Access to safe, sanitary water is a huge problem in Niger. Water is scarce since the Sahara Desert comprises two thirds of the country, and Niger is a landlocked country.

Water in Niger becomes contaminated for a number of reasons. The practice of open defecation is widespread. People relieve themselves in bushes, fields, near ponds, and by the roadside. As of 2015, 71% of the population practiced open defecation.[1] This is due to a lack of latrines and the social norm where people believe that open defecation is better and more widely accepted. As a result, feces runs into food and water sources such as ponds and crops.

The infrastructure in Niger is underdeveloped, and villages do not have proper sewage systems to dispose of waste. Water sources such as wells can also be easily contaminated since many of them are dug by hand and not properly maintained.[2]

The lack of water, limited ways to maintain sanitary conditions, and also a lack of education on hygienic practices (such as washing vegetables during meal preparation) create an environment for the spread of disease.

Unsanitary water leads to waterborne diseases that can be fatal if not treated properly.

Cholera

Cholera is a bacterial disease that is spread through contaminated water. The cholera bacteria (Vibrio cholerae) is shed in a person’s stool. A person can come into contact with the bacteria by drinking contaminated water, eating food before washing their hands, or eating food that has been contaminated with dirty irrigation water.

Cholera is very rare in countries like the United States where modern sewage and water treatment eliminates the problem.[3] But it is an ongoing problem in developing countries like Niger. Scientists estimate that there are up to 143,000 deaths worldwide due to cholera.[4]

Some people only develop mild or moderate symptoms while others develop severe symptoms that can lead to death if not immediately treated. The cholera bacteria cause acute watery diarrhea. This leads to severe dehydration. A person with severe symptoms can die within a matter of hours if left untreated.

Fortunately, cholera is easily treated with an oral rehydration solution. Yet cholera remains a real threat in Niger where there is a serious lack of resources in health care and clean water.

Source: CDC Global

Typhoid Fever

Typhoid fever, caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi, is an infection of the intestines and the bloodstream. The bacteria enters through the gut, multiplies in the lymph nodes, and then enters the bloodstream.[5] When it enters the bloodstream, people begin to experience the characteristic high fevers that typhoid fever is known for. After that, the bacteria can enter other organs such as the liver and spleen.

Typhoid fever is spread through contaminated food and water. The bacteria is shed in the feces and sometimes the urine of the infected carrier. Some carriers who do not show symptoms may get it on their hands after relieving themselves; if they do not wash their hands and then prepare food, the bacteria can be transferred that way.

It is estimated that 128,000 to 168,000 people worldwide die each year from typhoid fever.[6]

Symptoms of typhoid fever usually last three to four weeks if left untreated. It is characterized by sustained high fever of around 104°F. Other symptoms may include diarrhea or constipation, rose-colored spots on the trunk of the body, abdominal pain, and a swollen liver or spleen.

Typhoid fever can cause serious complications by the third week of illness. There can be intestinal bleeding or perforations in the intestines. The contents of the intestines can leak out into the bloodstream and cause serious infections in other parts of the body. These life-threatening complications occur in two out of 100 cases.[7]

Antibiotics are used to treat typhoid fever, but some individuals are not able to recover from complications. Before antibiotics, the fatality rate was 20%.[8] Alarmingly, there is a growing problem with antibiotic resistance in typhoid bacteria. Some antibiotics are less effective or even useless.[9]

The cycle of spreading the typhoid bacteria in Niger is never ending. Even after full recovery, some individuals remain carriers for many years and continue to shed the bacteria in their stool. Typhoid fever will continue to be a threat in Niger as long as there is lack of effective sewage waste disposal and inadequate access to clean water.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Dysentery

Dysentery is an infection of the intestines that causes bloody diarrhea. The two main types of dysentery are caused by bacteria (Shigella) or amoeba (Entamoeba histolytica). In the case of bacillary dysentery, the bacteria cause cellular damage, and this results in bloody diarrhea. In the case of amoebic dysentery, the amoeba can burrow into the intestines and cause ulcers, which can bleed.

The disease is spread by person-to-person contact or contaminated food and water. Like cholera, dysentery can be fatal because it causes severe diarrhea that can lead to dehydration.

The symptoms of dysentery include bloody diarrhea, mucus in the stool, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and dehydration.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Dysentery is treated by hydrating the patient. Antibiotics are given if the patient has bacillary dysentery. Antimicrobial drugs are given to wipe out the parasite if the patient has amoebic dysentery.

Guinea Worm Disease

Guinea worm disease is caused by a parasite called Dracunculus medinensis. People ingest the parasite’s larvae when they drink contaminated water. The female and male Guinea worms mate while inside the human body. The female worm will mature and then travel through the host’s body.

Guinea worms usually emerge from the feet. This causes incredibly painful lesions at the area where the worm emerges. The sufferer will dip his or her foot in water for relief, and this will cause the Guinea worm to release thousands of larvae into the water.[10]

Guinea worm disease is not fatal, but the excruciating pain from the emerging worms can cause a person to be temporarily disabled from work or school for a few weeks or months. Ulcers caused by the worms can cause other bacterial infections. There are no known vaccine or cure for Guinea worm disease.

Source: CDC/The Carter Center

On an extremely positive note, Guinea worm disease is almost completely eradicated in the human population. In 2018, only 28 Guinea worm disease cases worldwide were reported.[11] Niger used to be on the list of countries with Guinea worm disease[12], but Nigeriens are Guinea worm free as of 2018.

The Impact of Unsanitary Water Conditions

Children are most susceptible to dying from diarrheal diseases like cholera and dysentery, and diseases like typhoid fever pose dangers to their health as well. According to UNICEF, “Almost 60 percent of deaths due to diarrhoea worldwide are attributable to unsafe drinking water and poor hygiene and sanitation.”[13] In rural areas, access to a water source of any water quality is only 44.7% while only 7% have access to basic sanitation.[14]

On the whole, diseases like cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever can be treated and prevented, but these diseases are still a threat to many in Niger where it is difficult for people to access clean water. The near-eradication of Guinea worm disease points to real progress, but Niger still has a long way to go.

Niger needs to build sewage systems that effectively dispose of waste, find a means for providing clean water to even its most remote villages, and implement programs that educate its people on best hygiene practices. Progress has been impeded by multiple, urgent factors that are overwhelming the government: overpopulation, drought, hunger, and political upheaval. As the people of Niger struggle through these crises, they continue to fall sick and cost the government more resources in the effort to keep afloat and survive.

Wells Bring Hope and many other organizations across the world exist to bring relief and improve the quality of life for people who desperately need help.

 

[1] https://www.indexmundi.com/facts/niger/indicator/SH.STA.ODFC.ZS

[2] https://www.borgenmagazine.com/water-quality-in-niger/

[3] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cholera/symptoms-causes/syc-20355287

[4] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cholera

[5] https://patient.info/travel-and-vaccinations/typhoid-and-paratyphoid-fever-leaflet

[6] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/typhoid

[7] https://patient.info/travel-and-vaccinations/typhoid-and-paratyphoid-fever-leaflet

[8] https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/typhoid-fever#2

[9] https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/68/Supplement_2/S165/5371231

[10] https://www.who.int/dracunculiasis/disease/en/

[11] https://www.cartercenter.org/news/pr/guinea-worm-worldwide-cases-jan2019.html

[12] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-niger-disease-idUSBRE94D0J620130514

[13] https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-health/diarrhoeal-disease/

[14] https://blogs.worldbank.org/water/delivering-water-and-sanitation-services-niger-challenges-and-results