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

Niger’s River Wonders

By Elsa Sichrovsky

While Niger is known for its arid desert climate, that doesn’t mean that there is a lack of wildlife. The Nile River and Niger River both flow through Niger, and these bodies of water support an abundance of animal species that thrive along their banks. Some of the most interesting species have their own way of surviving the lack of stable water and the threats from poachers that plague this part of the world.

Nile perch

Source: WorldFish

In the Hausa language, the Nile perch is called giwan ruwa, which means “water elephant.[1]” No wonder, for the Nile perch can grow as big as 2 meters long! Its abundance and massive size make it a crucial component of East Africa’s food economy. The Nile perch isn’t particular about where it lives and thrives in any part of a lake. It adapts well to new environments, to the point of becoming one of the most invasive fish species, according to World Conservation Union. In fact, during the dry season when the Nile River dries up, the Nile perch survives by encasing itself with a layer of mucus to retain moisture[2]. Unfortunately, its natural environment is threatened by climate change and its population suffers from severe overfishing.

 

Nile monitor

Source: D. Gordon E. Robertson

While the name may suggest that it is a machine, the Nile monitor is part of a family of large aquatic lizards with powerful teeth and an aggressive demeanor.[3] The name might have been inspired by their habit of standing on two legs as if “monitoring.” Nile monitors have greenish-brown and greenish-yellow spotted skin patterns that help them blend in with their surroundings. While it is native to Africa, it is now also extensively bred in Florida and California. It preys on crocodile eggs and nests, which disrupts Florida’s native crocodile population as Nile monitors are often released into the wild when would-be pet owners can no longer care for them.

 

Egyptian plover

Source: Francesco Veronesi

This charming gray and orange bird is widely known as the “crocodile bird” because it is believed to enter the mouth of a crocodile to eat away the parasites.[4] While no photographic evidence of this symbiotic relationship existsz3, there continue to be reports of such behavior.[5] It frequents sandbars on the shores of large tropical rivers, including the Nile River. The Egyptian plover utilizes the searing African sun to incubate its eggs, which it only covers with a thin layer of sand and then leaves to hatch on its own. Since the Egyptian plover is not hunted for economic purposes, it is found in abundance and does not suffer from any threat of extinction.

African Helmeted Turtle

Source: Thomas Brown

African Helmeted Turtles are a popular pet because of their endearing head-tucking habit. In fact, if it is flipped upside down, it can flip itself right-side up with a swift movement of its strong neck. African Helmeted Turtles have their special way of dealing with the lack of water that plagues this area. They bury themselves in muddy pools during the hot season and move from mud hole to another as they wait for the rainy season.

The illegal trade in reptiles’ skins has increasingly become a concern in Niger. The skins of native reptiles in Niger are highly sought after, due to their uniqueness and rarity. Poverty makes poaching a tempting trade for many people. Niger’s wildlife is under threat due to climate change, poaching, and lack of effective government intervention. By raising awareness of Niger’s environmental issues, more attention and resources can hopefully be directed to this often-overlooked part of the world.

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nile_perch

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wildlife_of_Niger#cite_note-Area-10

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nile_monitor

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

[5] https://beautifulafricanwildanimalspets.blogspot.com/p/beautiful-dangerous-nile-crocodile.html

The Cost of Economic Exploration

by Caroline Moss

The government of Niger recently announced plans to reduce the size of one of Africa’s largest biodiversity reserves in order to expand oil drilling operations. The Termit Massif and Tin Toumma National Nature Reserve overlaps three oil blocs controlled by the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation. CNPC plans to build and operate a crude oil pipeline to export its crude oil.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Termit2.jpg

 

The reserve’s unique lack of human activity has long allowed wildlife to remain undisturbed. Unfortunately, the new economic advances will undoubtedly affect the animals on the reserve. The reserve’s 100,000 square kilometers of mountains and valleys, open desert, and grassy plains will be downsized by 45,000 square kilometers to allow for new drilling. Established in 2012, the reserve is considered to be one of the last strongholds of Saharan Wildlife and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its biodiversity. Biodiversity refers to the full array of life in the region including the species richness, ecosystem complexity, and genetic variation.

The French conservation non-government organization, Noé, was entrusted with managing the reserve on behalf of the government in November of 2018. The conservation organization must now shift to working with CNPC to create an environment where oil extradition and wildlife can co-exist. As one of the poorest countries in the world, Niger would benefit economically from oil extradition, but at what cost to its environment and the animals within the preserve?

The reserve is the only place in the world known for its population of critically endangered addax or white antelope. There are currently less than 100 living there in the wild. In 2016, the Union for Conservation of Nature warned that disturbances caused by CNPC’s oil installations had pushed the addax to the brink of extinction.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Addax

The biodiversity of the Termit Massif and Tin Toumma National Nature Reserve is worth saving, not only because of the animals that live there, but also because of the land’s . As home to numerous animals and unique wildlife, the nature reserve has become a part of the cultural identity of the country. With new commercial interests in this area, companies could make important contributions to Niger by taking steps to protect the addax and minimizing oil impact to preserve the land while still contributing to the country’s gross domestic product.

 

SOURCES:

“Actualités.” Noe, Noe, 30 July 2019

Leahy, Stephen. “Africa’s Largest Reserve May Lose Half Its Area to Oil Development.” Mongabay Environmental News, Mongabay, 6 Aug. 2019

UICN. “Saharan Addax Antelope Faces Imminent Extinction.” UICN, UICN, 16 June 2016

“Termit & Tin Toumma, Niger – SCF.” Sahara Conservation Fund

“West Africa: Land Use and Land Cover Dynamics.” Biodiversity and Protected Areas in West Africa West Africa, USGS

 

 

Sustainable Development Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

by Michelle Nelson von Euw

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Generally speaking, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a collection of 17 international development goals set by the United Nation’s General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030. These goals are sometimes also referred to as the 2030 Agenda. The development problems addressed by the 17 SDGs range from improving general wellbeing, education, and clean water practices, to combating poverty, hunger, and detrimental climate change. The 17 SDGs are composed of 169 targets. Within each target exists one to three indicators, which are used to monitor success and evaluate if targets are being met. All in all, there are 232 indicators approved by the United Nations Development Program to track progress toward the 17 SDGs.

The SDGs were created as a response to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were established following the Millennium Summit of 2000. As the first 21st century UN initiative of its kind, the MDGs outlined eight international development goals for the year 2015. One of the greatest criticisms of the MDGs was that the goals were too narrow, which made it too difficult for countries to monitor their progress. While water has always been of pivotal importance in development, the MDGs failed to consider improved water practices significant enough to stand alone as a goal. The focus of the MDGs was broad and its goals were overly ambitious (e.g. to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, to ensure environmental sustainability, etc.). Many critics of the MDGs believe that when creating the original MDG framework they oversimplified the very complex concepts encompassed by sustainable development. When developing the SDGs, efforts were made to combat the vagueness associated with the MDGs. As a result, the number of goals more than doubled.

SDG 6 focuses heavily on three central problems commonly faced by developing countries: water scarcity, flooding, and a lack of proper waste management. Increased delivery and management of water systems can help create health, economic, and social progress as it relates to sustainable development. These development objectives highlight the importance of meeting the demand for water with a safe and sustainable supply. SDG 6 has eight different targets and 11 indicators spread across them. These targets and indicators are aimed to improve the management of water supplies and sanitation facilities. Integral to the approach of achieving SDG 6 is the understanding that all targets must be understood within the social, political, and structural context of each individual country so that national governments can incorporate the SDGs into their strategic planning process.

The individual targets are as follows:

  • Target 6.1 Achieve access to safe and affordable drinking water.
  • Target 6.2 Achieve access to sanitation and hygiene and end open defecation.
  • Target 6.3 Improve water quality, wastewater treatment and safe reuse.
  • Target 6.4 Increase water-use efficiency and ensure freshwater supplies.
  • Target 6.5 Implement integrated water resources management.
  • Target 6.6 Protect and restore water-related ecosystems.
  • Target 6a Expand international cooperation and capacity building.
  • Target 6b Support the participation of local communities.

As stated by a 2018 Report on SDG 6, the aims of this goal are vital to the success of many of the other development goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda.

“Fresh water, in sufficient quantity and quality, is essential for all aspects of life and sustainable development. The human rights to water and sanitation are widely recognized by [UN] Member States. Water resources are embedded in all forms of development (e.g. food security, health promotion and poverty reduction), in sustaining economic growth in agriculture, industry and energy generation, and in maintaining healthy ecosystems.”

In recent decades, the increasing misuse of water resources has created an increase in pollution and severe water stress within developing nations. Countries facing this threat desperately need improved technology to purify wastewater to increase the amount of water available to recycle. Currently, over 2.4 billion people lack access to safe sanitation. Data collected by the UN from 79 countries showed that only 59% of all wastewater is safely treated before entering waterways. As such, there is a dire need for governments and other organizations to support treatment technologies. Additionally, heavy rains and standing water further increase the risk of disease as they limit the sources of fresh water. In areas where water cannot be treated, waterborne illnesses, such as malaria and cholera, can spread much more easily.

In response to SDG 6, the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA), a network of over 340 partner organizations around the world, has dedicated itself to ensuring that SDG 6 is achieved through the promotion of sustainable sanitation systems. As of 2018, however, only 27% of the population of low-income countries have access to soap and water. While SDG 6 is very important for developing countries to work toward, it is also important to note that developed countries could also benefit greatly from the improvement of water systems and waste management. Clean water is the foundation on which all civilizations are built.

For any country, or organization, to come anywhere close to attaining SDG 6, it must create a social, organizational, and physical structure that can provide sanitation facilities, increase investment in needed infrastructure, and encourage hygiene in as many ways as possible.

References:

“Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation.” United Nations Development Programme, United Nations, www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals/goal-6-clean-water-and-sanitation.html.

“SDG 6 Synthesis Report 2018 on Water and Sanitation Archives | UN-Water.” UN, www.unwater.org/publication_categories/sdg-6-synthesis-report-2018-on-water-and-sanitation/.

“SDG Indicators (Edition 2016).” Global SDG Indicators Database, 2015, doi:10.18356/237bcfcf-en.

“United Nations Millennium Development Goals.” United Nations – We Can End Poverty, United Nations, 2015, www.un.org/millenniumgoals/bkgd.shtml.

“Water and Sanitation : Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.” Sustainable Development Goals: Knowledge Platform , United Nations, 2018, sustainabledevelopment.un.org/topics/waterandsanitation.

 

Climate Change and Life in the Sahel Region

by Raphaela Barros Prado

Source: Hugues

The weather around the world is changing as evidenced by the many natural disasters and growing patterns of abnormal weather like droughts and heat waves. The temperature in the US for example, has risen by 1.8F, while the Earth’s average temperature has increased by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the beginning of the twentieth century.

Climate change affects people’s lives in poor regions like Niger, as the availability of usable land goes down and water sources became less reliable. Niger is located in the middle of the Sahel, and climate change is even worse in this area, where the temperatures are rising 1.5 times faster than in any other place. For this reason, people decide to migrate to other places that may be dangerous or join armed groups because of the lack of opportunities in the area. Thus climate change is contributing to an increased violence in these areas.

Although the situation in places like Niger is delicate and complicated, there are different ways to help improve the population’s quality of life. For example, building partnerships and investing in new financial models can be a good start. Local organizations, donors and scientists could work together with communities to create and implement long-term solutions. For example, Wells Bring Hope makes an impact in communities that have contaminated water by providing clean water and drilling new wells. Wells Bring Hope also stays in the community for 15 years, making monthly visits to ensure that the new practices become ingrained in daily behavior.

When a well is drilled, life in a village is transformed. Of course, the well means that there is a nearby source of safe, clean water, so women and girls no longer have to walk miles every day to access unsafe water sources that are becoming more depleted every day. There is, however, another key benefit that is becoming increasingly important as more frequent droughts lead to more frequent famines. When a new well is drilled, villagers are taught how to use grey water and drip farming to grow gardens, which provide essential nutrition and help to ward off starvation during times of famine.

In addition, providing education, training, and jobs, will empower people to find solutions for themselves. All of these strategies require financial support and mechanisms to extend the humanitarian help around these areas. There are a few projects providing hope for Sahel’s population. One such project is the Great Green Wall Initiative, which was adopted by the heads of state of eleven founding countries and was designed as a reforestation belt with more than 4,400 miles of extension and about 9,300 miles wide across Africa. The original goal was to understand the effects of desertification and then stop the advance of the desert. The reforestation would include 100% of indigenous species. Albeit there are some challenges, the project is currently underway. Hopefully more initiatives like this one will be developed and will have a big impact on people’s lives in the Sahel region.

SOURCES:

https://www.africanews.com/2019/01/22/mali-niger-climate-change-and-conflict-make-an-explosi ve-mix-in-the-sahel/

https://www.encyclopedie-environnement.org/en/life/green-wall-hope-greening-sahel/

Sarraounia Mangou: Niger’s Forgotten Princess

by: Elsa Sichrovsky

During the “Scramble for Africa” of the late nineteenth century, where European colonial powers rushed to conquer, and exploit the African continent, a powerful queen emerged: Sarraounia (Hausa for “queen”or “female chief”), leader of the Anza people in Lougou, Niger. Although, French historical documents give little information about this fascinating woman, the information that exists is astonishing enough. In April of 1899, her village was threatened by the notoriously cruel French commanders Paul Voulet and Julien Chanoine of the bloody Voulet-Chanoine Mission. Captain Voulet was said to have “a true love of blood and cruelty” and Lieutenant Chanoine was described as being “cruel out of cold-bloodedness as well as for pleasure.”[1] Determined not to allow her people to fall into such evil hands, Sarraounia rose up to defend her people with an ingenious plan.

She hid the women and children behind a thick, impenetrable bush, while she led her army against the invaders. When enemy gunfire overwhelmed her forces, she strategically retreated with her comrades into a protective thicket of jungle vegetation. From the cover of the undergrowth, her army continued their resistance with guerilla warfare. Although the French army ultimately prevailed, Sarraounia’s skill and bravery gave Voulet and Chanoine the most painful losses of their mission thus far: four French soldiers killed and six wounded.

By ChernorizetsHrabar – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The term “Sarraounia” refers to a woman who is not only a political ruler, but also a religious authority.[2] Interviews conducted by Professor Antoinette Tidjani Alou in modern-day Niger, record Nigeriens calling Sarraounia the “mistress of all the spirits” and “mother of all [animist] traditions” (Tidjani Alou 48).  She, being a female leader of the animist Anza people in a predominantly Islamic region, was believed to possess mysterious powers. The disastrous Voulet-Chanoine Mission ended with both Voulet and Chanoine being killed by their own soldiers, and Sarraounia’s magic was believed to be responsible for this humiliating end.[3]

Sadly, Sarraounia fell into oblivion and was only brought back to international attention by novelist and political activist Abdoulaye Mamani, who wrote the novel Sarraounia about her. In 1986, it was made into a movie which won first prize in the Pan African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou. Once an obscure female ruler in the annals of Nigerien history, Sarraounia became a pan-African symbol of both colonial resistance and female leadership.[4]

Sarraounia’s courageous example is an inspiration to anyone who is fighting for freedom against great odds. The mission of Wells Bring Hope is to empower girls and women to achieve independence and equality in spite of economic and cultural obstacles. No matter how long the process or how insurmountable the setbacks, every Nigerien girl can make a lasting difference in her community, just as Sarraounia made her mark in Nigerien history.

photo from Sarraounia 

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voulet%E2%80%93Chanoine_Mission

[2] Alou, Antoinette Tidjani. “Niger and Sarraounia: One Hundred Years of Forgetting Female Leadership.” Research in African Literatures, vol. 40, no. 1, 2009, pp. 42–56. JSTOR.  www.jstor.org/stable/30131185.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voulet%E2%80%93Chanoine_Mission#cite_note-17

[4]Elara Bertho, « Sarraounia, une reine africaine entre histoire et mythe littéraire (Niger, 1899-2010) », Genre & Histoire [En ligne], 8 | Printemps 2011, mis en ligne le 21 novembre 2011, consulté le 23 novembre 2018. http://journals.openedition.org/genrehistoire/1218 .

Divorce in Niger: Fear, Hope, and the Struggle for Equality

By: Elaine Wallace 

In a fascinating post last year, Wells Bring Hope writer Shayna Watson described how social media is changing marriage culture in Niger, in good ways and bad. One positive development has been the rise of new social media platforms that encourage women to pursue gender equity in their relationships and to consider work, rather than marriage, as a means to financial security. These platforms empower women by giving them a vision of something other than the traditional path of early marriage and financial dependence on a husband.

Not everyone is happy about this development. As the Guardian reported in July, religious leaders fear that Niger’s divorce rate is soaring and that social media is to blame. They believe social media encourages infidelity among men and promotes ideas about women’s status that are at odds with traditional Nigerien culture. The solution, they say, is for women to abandon social media. Many older Nigeriens agree.

Social media may be an easy target for those who fear a rising divorce rate, but a new report by the New York Times provides a more complex view of the situation in Niger. Dionne Searcey, the Times’ West Africa bureau chief, went to Niger to explore a story about child marriage. But after speaking with a judge in Maradi who has been hearing divorce cases for over a decade, she decided to write about divorce . Searcey marvels that in Niger, where women have less education, lower living standards, and less equality with men than almost anywhere else in the world, women are taking more control over their lives and relationships. She calls it Niger’s “quiet revolution.”

Searcey notes that fears of a skyrocketing divorce rate in Niger are misplaced. A recent study by the Centre on Population Dynamics at McGill University supports her conclusion. According to the study, the divorce rate has actually dropped by about 10% over the past 20 years. The real change in Niger is not in the number of divorces, but in how divorce is initiated.

In the past, the vast majority of divorces were initiated by men. In the last 10 years, however, the number of divorces initiated by women has risen dramatically. Social media has undoubtedly played a role in this change, but the situation is more complex. Several social, political, and economic changes have contributed to a deep cultural – and generational shift – in Niger. As a result, young women are no longer willing to endure bad marriages, as they have been expected to do for generations. They are demanding respect, and hopefully love, from marriage partners and are willing to divorce husbands who don’t treat them well.

Although women in Niger are less educated than in other countries, and the child marriage rate is still high, more women are educated now than in the past and, in some areas, are marrying later in life. More women are also moving into cities for work, leaving parents and local traditions behind. This, in turn, empowers them to leave bad marriages.

There is also a greater commitment to women’s rights and more laws against discrimination and domestic abuse. 10 years ago, many women were unaware that they had any rights at all. Today, government-sponsored radio programs broadcast about a woman’s right to leave failing relationships, and billboards, talk shows, and even hip-hop lyrics inform women of their rights as wives.

Economics plays a role too. Niger’s already impoverished economy has been badly impacted by the war in nearby Nigeria with radical Islamist group, Boko Haram. Husbands in Niger are no longer able to support their wives financially, a problem that is compounded by a high birth rate and the practice of polygamy. Financial problems are often the reason women seek divorce.

Women also have more access to media than they had in the past. In rural areas, women discuss marriage troubles on call-in radio shows. In cities, they vent relationship frustrations on social media. Previously isolated, women now have online support networks to help them stand up for their rights, including the right to divorce. 

Social media is a mixed blessing. There’s no doubt that 24-7 interconnectedness creates a host of unexpected problems. But around the world, social media has given a voice to people who otherwise would not have the social, political, or economic power to speak. In Niger, women are using that voice to demand more control over one of the most fundamental aspects of their lives – their marriages.

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/jul/23/how-social-media-is-revolutionising-marriage-in-niger

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/06/world/africa/niger-divorce-women.html

https://www.npr.org/2019/01/11/684346376/more-women-seek-divorces-in-niger-new-york-times-reporter-reveals

https://www.futurity.org/divorce-sub-saharan-africa-1080642-2/

Nigerien Hip-Hop: The Voice of Niger’s Youth

By: Elsa Sichrovsky

{Source: rfi MUSIQUE}

Although hip-hop music may be widely considered a product of American pop culture, Niger has also produced hip-hop artists of outstanding talent. They use music as a medium to raise awareness for the social issues of their generation. Nigerien hip-hop was indeed heavily influenced by American culture in its early stages[1]. Eventually, local artists produced a genre unique to Niger’s culturally diverse populace by combining classic hip hop elements with traditional African music.

The mid-1990s was when Nigerien hip-hop and rap exploded in popularity. Although the artists were young people producing music with little financial support and limited facilities, their music about poverty, politics, and gender issues resonated with the public. In particular, the rap group Wass Wong[2] took on political issues such as misuse of public funds, youth unemployment, failed electoral promises, nepotism, censorship, and ineffective governance. They rapped in both tribal languages and international languages like Hausa, Djerma[3], French, and English. International NGOs such as UNICEF have since enlisted Nigerien hip hop artists to participate in compilation albums on issues such as AIDS, female genital mutilation, and poverty.

Nigerien hip-hop has struggled to develop as young performers leave bands, regroup, experiment, and slip in and out of the music scene. Recording quality is a major issue for Nigerien artists, due to the limited number of recording studios and the fact that Nigerien sound professionals are still unfamiliar with this music style. Artists face high production costs and are obliged to supplement their income with odd jobs. They even borrow money from family and friends to support their dreams[1]. They see these young performers as intruding on a space that belongs to the traditional guardians of music – the griots. “In a Muslim society like ours, parents do not really like that choice,” says Wyzzy, a solo rapper, “but I’m passionate so I keep going[1].”

For Zara Moussa (ZM), one of Niger’s few female rappers, gender was another obstacle to overcome. “To be a girl in rap is pretty hard,” she says with a smile, “some boys did not believe I was able to rap[1].” Her family struggled to accept her passion: “My mother is always reluctant. My song lyrics touch her but she would have liked me to express myself with means other than music”. Nevertheless, Zara proved the naysayers wrong. In 2002, her track “Femme Objet” won a rap contest organized by the French Embassy. Her first album, Kirari, was released in spring 2005. While many Nigerien rappers complete an entire album within a few days, Zara took her time to produce high quality work[4]. She uses music as a medium through which to express the cries of oppressed women, those women in forced marriages, as well as women in love.

There are so many talented young men and women in Niger with the potential to produce art and music that will touch hearts worldwide. Unfortunately, many Nigerien young people are caught in the cycle of poverty and disease that leads to high rates of preventable child mortality[5]. Wells Bring Hope educates mothers on how to protect their children from germs and sickness, thus preventing young talent being lost to death and disease. After Wells Bring Hope drills wells for a village, mothers no longer have to walk long distances just to get water for their children. They can attend microfinance training provided by Wells Bring Hope, which enables them to earn an income for their child’s education. By promoting female leadership and requiring that women participate in well maintenance, Wells Bring Hope is giving young Nigerien girls a positive example that will motivate them to work for a brighter future. With more Nigerien youth having healthier, brighter childhoods, who knows what these youth could go on to become?

 

[1]     http://musique.rfi.fr/musique/20050726-rappe-le-niger 

[2]    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iie_ZWGrJUA

[3]     https://www.guidetotheworldofmusic.com/people-and-places/a-brief-story-of-nigerian-rap/

[4]    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPoDr9NBNnw

[5]     https://wellsbringhope.org/faq/