Based on the climate analysis report published by British
risk consultancy firm Verisk Maplecroft in November 2018, two-thirds of African
cities are at an extreme risk of drought and heat waves caused by the climate
According to the report, two out of three cities on the
African continent could experience serious negative effects from global warming
by 2035. The increased vulnerability of these cities is attributed to rapid
population growth and poor infrastructure.
Record levels of greenhouse gas emissions have contributed
to an unacceptable warming pattern that has major implications for developing
nations in Africa. These countries have experienced temperature increases that
are much higher than the global average. African countries within 15 degrees of
the equator are experiencing the highest frequency of heat waves and droughts.
According to the Intergovernmental
Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), the western Sahel region is likely to
experience the worst effects of rising temperatures with a major increase in
the length of dry spells expected. West Africa was identified as a hotspot for
climate change, which is likely to lessen crop yields and production, thereby
impacting food security. The western region of southern Africa is also expected
to become drier, with an increase in drought frequency and heat waves.
If the average global
temperature increases by 2° C, there will be major changes in the occurrence
and intensity of temperature extremes in all of sub-Saharan Africa. This will
result in increased frequency of heat-waves, droughts and changing rainfall
patterns impacting the crop-yields.
In response to the increased risks associated with climate
change, countries from across the globe came together in 2015 to adopt the
historic Paris Agreement. In December 2018, world leaders met in Katowice in
southern Poland, for the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), called as COP24, to finalize
the rules for implementation of the agreement. The agreement was signed by 197
The UN Climate Change Conference
(COP25) took place in December 2019 to take the next crucial steps in the UN
climate change process. Along with the process and the changes introduced by UN
and the world nations, it should be every individual’s responsibility to
contribute towards reducing the global warming.
Kachindamoto is the paramount chief, or Inkosi, of the Dezda District in the
central region of Malawi, the 6th poorest country in the world. In
this position, she has authority over 900,000 people and works as one of 300
tribal leaders of the country. Kachindamoto came to power after a 27-year
career as a secretary in another southern district where she had to face what
she believes to be one of the most pressing issues of her time – child
marriage. A survey conducted by the United Nations in 2012 found that more than
50% of girls in Malawi were married before the age of 18 and ranked Malawi as
having one of the highest child marriage rates in the world.
by the statistics, and shocked by the existence of 12-year-old wives and
mothers, Kachindamoto decided that she must do everything in her power to end
the marginalizing practice of child marriage. Although Malawi passed a law in
2015 that prohibits marriage before the age of 18, it proved to be generally
ineffective as the traditional practices allow children to marry at any age
with parental consent, and many poor families play an active role in
encouraging child marriage as a means to ensure that young girls are provided
for. Although Malawi is a country with a functioning democratic government,
traditional practices still heavily influence the rule of law.
marriage was only part of the problem as many regions in Malawi still support
the use of sexual initiation camps, or kukasa fumbi. Girls from rural towns
were sent to these “cleansing camps” upon having their first period to learn
how to pleasure men and fulfill their “duties” as women. Many only graduated by
having sex with their teachers to show that they were prepared to take on the role
of wife. This customary practice unfortunately contributed to an increase in
HIV and unwanted pregnancies throughout the region; Malawi has an HIV infection
rate of 10%.
50 other sub chiefs, Theresa Kachindamoto drafted and signed an agreement to
end child marriage and sexual initiation camps.. As expected, this attempt to
end long-standing cultural practices was not welcomed . Vigorous backlash
throughout the regions ensued, but Kachindamoto stood firm. Her commitment to
protecting the lives and futures of the innocent never wavered. Kachindamoto
immediately fired the four male sub chiefs who opposed the end of the camps and
child marriage. Eventually, however, these four sub chiefs enforced the new
laws in their districts and were welcomed back after Kachindamoto was able to
verify their commitment to ending these practices.
her time as senior chief in the Dezda District, Malawi’s government has
increased the legal age of marriage consent from 15 to 18 years old. To date,
Theresa Kachindamoto has annulled more than 1000 child marriages.
Margaritoff, Marco. “How
One Female Chief Saved 850 Kids From Forced Child Marriage.” All That’s Interesting, All That’s
Interesting, 8 Mar. 2019, allthatsinteresting.com/theresa-kachindamoto.
“Malawi’s Fearsome Chief, Terminator of Child Marriages.” Malawi | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 16 May 2016,
Soldati, Camilla. “Theresa
Kachindamoto, the Woman Who Saves Girls from Child Marriage in Malawi.” LifeGate, 1 Feb. 2019,
birth to a baby is physically painful and psychologically stressful for any
woman, but for women in Niger, childbirth can debilitating as it frequently results
in a condition that plagues them with chronic incontinence for the rest of
their lives: obstetric fistula. Prolonged labor without medical interventions
such as cesarean section and forceps delivery can create a hole in the birth
canal. Blood, urine, andr feces constantly leak through this hole, causing
physical pain and psychological shame, and even complete ostracization for
women who live in a society that sees incontinence as the result of poor
worse, most of the births that resulted in obstetric fistula were stillbirths.
Mothers have to deal with the emotional pain of losing their child after a
tortuous childbirth process while coping with the incredible discomfort and increased
risk of infection that results from obstetric fistula. At this vulnerable point
in their lives, their husbands may leave them due to disappointment with the
stillbirth or disgust over their incontinence.
Obstetric fistula sufferers have to endure the daily struggle of mastering
specific ways of sitting and dressing themselves to hide their condition from
friends, family and even their spouses. For many women, the strain of hiding a
shameful secret and the fear of humiliating exposure leads to isolation and
loss of social relationships.
desperation, women have to travel long distances to seek careas treatment
centers are few and far . After waiting for months for a slot in the surgery
schedule, they may face the disappointment of unsuccessful surgery. When the
surgery fails to restore continence, women must find ways to pass as continent
for fear of frustrating eager friends and family. The process of waiting in
treatment centers and undergoing multiple surgeries to regain continence can
take up to a decade. As women end up spending years of their lives seeking
treatment without success, fighting despair becomes a struggle.
upside is that obstetric fistula is preventable as it is a disease of poverty,
which is nonexistent in first world countries.
Besides making medical resources more easily accessible for rural women,
combating child marriage is also key to reducing the incidence of obstetric
fistula. Operation Fistula describes the profile of the average woman with
fistula: her first pregnancy within three years of her first menstruation and
married below the age of eighteen to a husband at least five years older than
Dr. Abdoulaye Idrissa, director of Niger’s National Fistula Center, pointed
out, “The essential factors remain poverty, illiteracy, access to health care
services…there are social factors also, like early marriage.”
He frequently sees patients as young as 12 or 13 in his treatment center.
complex these social issues are, Wells Bring Hope believes that a brighter
future can be built for Niger’s women. Drilling a well is the first step
because when girls don’t have to join their mothers in walking for water, they
stay in school. When girls have the chance to get an education, they delay
marriage and childbearing, thereby reducing their chance of developing a
fistula. When a well is drilled, women receive microfinance training. As the
women gain financial independence and grow in confidence, they are able to
provide for their families and afford a better standard of living. Their
daughters can see that there is an alternative to the life they used to know.
With consistent efforts to nurture and educate women, the vicious cycle of
poverty and child marriage can be brought to an end. Anyone can be a part of
this exciting project by volunteering or donating to Wells Bring Hope!
Atelier Masomi, an architectural studio, is helping to grow the economy in the village of Dandaji in Niger. Led by lead architect Mariam Kamara, who was raised in Niger, the studio designs its spaces to socially empower individuals and provide a better quality of life. Kamara recognized that markets previously were temporary and had no permanent space. This constant movement of the markets made it difficult for entrepreneurs to both sell and procure goods. Kamara knew that creating a permanent market would provide the community with a consistent and reliable place to gather for commerce, something that would be sure to help the economy grow.
The design of the structure is very simple. It is designed around an ancestral tree, where the weekly transient markets used to take place. Now, the space has become a public gathering place with seating arrangement . There are 52 enclosed market stalls located close to the public space. The stalls were designed to be practical and durable enough to last for decades. The bricks used to build these stalls are made from compressed earth to help cool the space allowing the vendors to work through the day despite temperatures that exceed 100°F.
Recycled metal was used to create shade, making up for the area’s lack of trees. The metal shades are painted yellow, blue, and green, creating a whimsical feeling and drawing villagers into the marketplace.
By building the regional market, Alelier Masomi provided new
opportunities for the Dandaji villagers. Kamara hired local villagers as masons
to work on the project, which both provided work for the villagers and allowing
Masomi to transfer his knowledge and skills to the local community. The project
has instilled pride in local residents and added to the village’s sense of
When a well is drilled in a village, there is a similar
increase in community spirit and pride. In villages where Wells Bring
Hope works, that community building begins even before the well is drilled,
when a committee is formed to manage the well, handle malfunctions, and obtain
new parts. The villagers also establish a maintenance fund, to which everyone
in the village contributes, creating a feeling of “ownership.” Reliable access
to safe water, allows individuals to have more free time to take care of their
families and to pursue income-generating work. The market at Dandaji is a great
example of how individuals can use time that is freed up when they do not have
to walk for water to provide for their families, but as always, the first step
is having access to clean water.
Niger is the poorest country in the world. The country has a high fertility rate and low literacy rate. Before I conducted my own research for this article, everything I knew about Niger was negative. Magazines like National Geographic provided insight into the chaos that surrounds Niger. That is literally the title of a National Geographic article released in July 2019, “Surrounded by chaos, Niger is a nation on the edge.”
Niger is a country that seldom makes news for positive reasons. If you google “Niger” you will find quite a few articles about violence and political instability. Positive news can be hard to find; however, I am an optimist. Although, Niger continues to endure immense hardships, there is progress worth celebrating.
Niger is ranked at the bottom in the UN’s Education Index. Less than 15% of women in Niger can read and write. Less than 50% of school-age children attend school. There are poor retention rates for the remainder of children who attend school. Save the Children has sponsored early childhood education to help increase literacy levels by increasing access and equality in education. In Niger, Save the Children has also provided an estimated 825,268 children with essential nourishment through health and nutrition programs that support vulnerable children.
In Niger, diarrheal disease resulting from unsafe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene is one of the leading causes of death for children under the age of five. UNICEF has partnered with Niger’s government and other non-profits to implement sanitation programs, called Total Sanitation, in 10 villages. The program is in its early stages and will be implemented in more villages in the future. The majority of villagers in rural Niger do not have knowledge of hygienic practices. UNICEF trained a certain number of villagers to understand and teach the program. The sanitation programs are community-led and each villager participates in the learning process.
UNICEF provides funding for programs that teach good hygiene practices in communities. UNICEF also conducted research to help implement a pilot program in 10 schools that will help young girls learn about menstruation and hygiene. This initiative will include helping the government and its ministers make this program a national cause. This is a small step in the right direction for a nation that has a history of severe inequality among men and women.
Domestic violence is a widespread issue in Niger. The United Nations and the European Union have come together to work toward the goal of eliminating all forms of violence against women by 2030. The United Nations is also working with the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Protection of Children to strengthen laws that address violence against women, encourage and strengthen women’s rights movements, and educate communities on the harmfulness of female genital mutilation. This massive initiative will begin at the government level as ministers will learn about every step of the initiative before it is implemented in communities.
CURE International opened the first children’s hospital to offer cutting edge specialty surgery. CURE’s hospital has the capacity to perform more than 2,000 complex orthopaedic surgeries annually. The hospital offers hope for children with disabilities such as clubfoot. It also offers more opportunities for employment for the people of Niger.
Niger suffers from some of the highest rates of malnutrition and mortality in the world. USAID has implemented an initiative known as RISE (Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced). RISE’s objective is to build the local health systems so they can handle the massive rate of malnutrition. USAID works with the Nigerien government to ensure their programs and initiatives are implemented nationwide. RISE helps communities learn about nutrition.
Niger is mostly desert, so the climate is mostly hot and dry, with periods of much-needed rain. That rain has become less and less reliable in recent years as Niger has experienced drought after drought. Improved conservation and alternative agricultural techniques employed by farmers and aid groups have been able to mitigate this crisis, helping to plant and maintain millions of trees in the last decade. The government is also working with NGOs to decrease desertification. [KC1]
A remote irrigation system was designed by a local farmer, Abdou Maman Kané, through his business Tech-Innov. The remote irrigation system is controlled by cell phones and uses water more productively. An estimated 200 farms utilise the system, which uses solar power to fuel pumps. Prior to the remote irrigation system, an estimated 50% to 60% of water is lost because of leaks in buckets and pipes. The system has allowed farmers to irrigate larger areas of land.
The Integrated Production and Pest Management program, a product of the Food and Agricultural organisation of the UN, works to raise awareness about the dangers of pesticides, empower communities, market nutritious food across Africa. In Niger, the program empowers communities by collaborating with clubs to encourage open discussions and helping communities have meaningful social interactions. The program also helps farmers irrigate more land, trains farmers to improve practices and increase their yield, and pilot a system to help seed marketing.
Access to clean water is limited in much of rural Niger. As population growth continues and communities expand, the need for clean water increases. One in seven children dies before the age of five due to a lack of safe water. Fortunately, Niger has a wealth of clean water available a couple hundred feet below ground. Wells Bring Hope, in partnership with World Vision, is able to tap these aquifers, providing villagers with an endless supply of clean water. Wells Bring Hope also works with villages for more than 15 years after a well is drilled, teaching villagers how to maintain it, and empowering them to take ownership of it.
Niger is improving in small ways and will continue to make progress. When we fund Wells Bring Hope and other aid programs in Niger, we provide communities with hope for their futures. With our financial assistance, more initiatives can be implemented to educate men and women on sanitation, nutrition, women’s rights, and conservation. The future of Niger is more hopeful than it was a decade ago because of the determined efforts of its people, the support of aid organizations that have dedicated their time to developing innovative solutions to complex problems, and the generosity of compassionate people around the world who have chosen to support that important work.
In my comfortable first-world life, information is just a swipe away. Whenever
I want to know something, I just pull out my smartphone and start typing a
question into Google. Immediately, a plethora of helpful information fills the
screen. If I need counseling, support, or treatment, the internet makes endless
resources available to me.
But for women in Niger, most of whom have
never had the opportunity to receive an education, the sole sources of
information are their fathers, husbands, and male religious leaders. Although
Niger’s male literacy rate of 27.3％ is higher than the female
literacy rate of 11％, it still means that the information about women’s
issues that Nigerien men have available to pass on to women is very limited. In a country
where radio and television are luxuries inaccessible to rural communities, many
families are unaware of medical and social services such as contraception and
family planning that can improve the quality of life for women and children.
In 2018, UNPFA (United Nations
Population Fund) launched a project that partnered with more than 50 female
Muslim clerics like Malama Ouani to provide weekly classes about reproductive
health, family planning, and women’s rights from an Islamic perspective. In a
country that is more than 99％ Muslim, Malama Ouani has a powerful message
to deliver: she believes that family planning and the right of women to be safe
and educated do not conflict with Islamic beliefs.
In a blog article, Malama Ouani points out the common misconception
that society’s oppression of women is endorsed by Islam: “I know this is
not the will of god or our government. It merely reflects a failure so old that
it seems as if it has always been the case.” In her
women’s study groups, called madrassas, Malama Ouani teaches women
that caring for their personal health and well-being is a religious obligation:
“How do you want to be
consistent in your religious practice and your adorations if you are sick all
One essential way to improve women’s health is to practice family
planning. Niger has one of the highest birth rates in the world, and many
women have been taught that Islam does not approve of spacing births. However,
family planning allows the mother’s body to recover after giving birth, which
helps her to be a stronger, healthier mother for the children she already has.
Malama Ouani tells women they can chose a different path from what they have
been raised with: “I tell the women, I am a Muslim cleric, and I have three children –
each born roughly three years after the next (currently ages 5, 8, and 12). I
did not have 10 children like my mother because I used family planning
With a vision
for the future, Malama Quani urges women to send their girls to school so they
can become medical professionals who can make medical examinations more
comfortable and easily accessible for Nigerien women. She refutes the notion
that knowledge can only be held in the hands of men: “The quest for knowledge
is an obligation for every Muslim.”
responded enthusiastically to Malama Quani’s instruction. She describes how
women gradually process the concepts that she teaches : “ A woman one week will
ask about family planning. And then next week, she might be bold enough to ask
me what I use. And then next week, she might ask some questions about how it
works. Some women then might take this information back to their husbands to
talk about what their family might look like if they planned their
Other women announce plans to visit their local health centers or ask Malama
Quani how they can enroll their daughters in school.
Hope shares Malama Quani’s vision for educating women and girls about their
rights so they may enjoy a higher quality of life. With microfinance classes
and hygiene education, women have a chance to escape the cycle of poverty and
build a brighter future for their daughters. Most essentially, having an
accessible well in their village means that girls who no longer have to walk
for water can remain in school and get an education, which will leave them
empowered to make thoughtful decisions about their health and futures. Best of
all, anyone can be a part of it by donating or volunteering for Wells Bring
and attention for youth today is no longer an option but an obligation. It is
about preparing a future leadership, responsible and committed to defend and
build the country and safeguard a heritage.” – Diana Ofwona,
UNDP Resident Representative
In September 2018, four
international organizations (UNICEF, UNDP, Plan International and the World
Organization of Scout Movement) joined together to launch the Generation
Unlimited Youth Challenge (GenU), an initiative that called on 800 innovators between
the ages of 14 and 24 from 16 different countries to find solutions to issues
of employment, education, and entrepreneurship. They were asked to answer the
urgent question, “How can we ensure every young person has an education, skills
and empowerment to build a better future?” Applicants then submitted their
innovative ideas to the GenU Review Board The five most promising ideas from each of the
16 countries received a monetary award of $1,000 (USD) and mentoring services
to further plan and implement their initiatives. The best project from each
country moved on to a final global judging process and received an additional
$20,000 (USD) in funding. This project yielded five winning teams whose
innovative ideas sparked change in their respective countries. As an example,
Team Amigo from Zimbabwe, one of the five winners, aimed to bring education
directly into the homes of those who had difficulty getting to school and those
who had to drop out due to lack of resources. With the help of the GenU
funding, Team Amigo is developing an app which will give every student in
Zimbabwe equal access to textbooks, tutorials, and additional learning
GenU empowers youth to play
an active role in creating a better world for themselves by giving them the funding
and support necessary to implement creative solutions to the problems faced by
their communities. This initiative shifts the power to young people who are
better suited to assess the problems they face than governing bodies who
observe from afar. GenU is giving a voice to a generation who has long been
undervalued, and is allowing them to make important decisions regarding what
international organizations can and should do for them. In December 2019, Niger
was chosen for the implementation of GenU Youth Challenge 2.0 by the Scouts of
Niger. This time around, 41 countries were chosen to participate. The
application process launched in January of 2020 as GenU 2.0 moves forward and
continues its mission of working in partnership with young people, for young
Niger is a country that has experienced more than her fair share of challenges. According to the 2019 UN Development Report, Niger ranked 189th out of 189 countries making it the poorest country in the world. With this poverty comes a lack of resources and infrastructure, which has a devastating impact on the population, particularly in the rural areas.
Over 64% of people in rural areas in Niger lack access to water.
Nine out of 10 Nigeriens don’t have access to the improved sanitation of even a simple latrine.
It’s because women and girls often walk four to six miles a day to collect water.
At first glance, it might seem that , as a landlocked nation,Niger simply lacks access to a reliable source of clean water, but that’s actually not the case. In reality, it is estimated that there are anywhere from 2.5 to 3 billion cubic meters of drinkable water. The challenge, however, is that this water is far from beyond reach, flowing in aquifers, which are 200-300 feet below ground. In fact, Niger ranks 8th highest of all African nations in terms of the productivity of its aquifers.
Groundwater storage for Africa – Panel (a) shows a map of groundwater storage expressed as water depth in millimeters (Döll and Fiedler 2008). Panel (b) shows the volume of groundwater storage for each country. Source: IOPscience
Tragically, people in Niger die every day for lack of that which is plentiful just a couple of hundred feet below ground, clean water. Accessing that water requires expert water engineers and multi-million dollar drilling rigs to access the water, but once the well is drilled, there is no danger of it running dry. The people of Niger don’t need or want endless support. Once the well is drilled, life in the village is transformed for generations. Thanks to our partners at World Vision, we are able to jump start that change with just $6,100 – our cost for drilling a well. With your support, we can give Niger a chance at a brighter future.
Humanitarian aid organizations and the government of Niger are scrambling to design more targeted relief plans to respond to the recent upsurge in violence at the hands of armed groups in Niger. Violence in areas that border Burkina Faso, Mali, and Nigeria has created yet another challenge for already vulnerable populations in Niger. In addition to the violence, natural disasters like flash floods , plant diseases, and related agricultural epidemics, have increased since July 2019 and resulted in the destruction of a number of fresh water reservoirs, which in turn caused the death of a large quantity of livestock. Unfortunately, according to recent weather forecasts, this situation is only expected to worsen over the coming year.
On November 20th, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released its funding overview which stated that its Niger Humanitarian Response Plan of 2019 required an additional $160.5 million (42% of the original target). This budget was put into place as a response to the “emergence of new humanitarian needs and the persistence of the needs not covered” by previous relief efforts. In 2019 alone, 1.6 million people in Niger faced food insecurity, 1.8 million suffered from malnutrition, over 437,000 refugees have been displaced, and over 295 security incidents were reported. The humanitarian crises facing Niger have been exacerbated by instability in neighboring countries which are ill-equipped to handle the influx of refugees and facing violent crime on their own. While it was unable to reach its goals in 2019, OCHA continues to reach out to previous donors in the hopes of completing its projects by the end of 2020. The targets of the response plan include:
Treating 381,700 children for malnutrition
Immunizing 110,000 children against measles
Providing access to safe drinking water for 95,000 people
Distributing household items to 143,500 people affected by violent conflict and natural disasters
As a result of the needs of the country, on December 9th the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and the government of Niger formalized an agreement to open the first-ever UN Human Rights Office in the country. The debut of this new office serves as a symbol of Niger’s commitment to promoting human rights and protecting its citizens, particularly the most vulnerable: refugees, migrants, women, and children. The office will work to:
Strengthen democracy with the increased involvement of women and youth
Provide policy assistance to the Government of Niger to ensure the protection of economic and social rights
Support legal reform to administer justice and protect human rights
Assist the government of Niger with the construction of a human rights compliance framework
Much has been written about Niger and the challenges it faces. According to the United Nations Human Development Index, Niger was ranked 187th of 188 countries in 2015 and 189th out of 189 countries in the 2018 report. The nation has grappled with a range of issues due to its land-lock position including inefficient agriculture, high fertility rates, poor educational levels, lack of infrastructure, poor healthcare, and more. Niger also suffers with security issues because of the cross-border influx of terrorists and militant groups as they can easily cross the borders without having to cross the ocean. Besides, a land-lock country may also suffer with the sense of physical isolation as people feel they are unfortunate to depend on other countries and they end up having a local mindset instead of an international and open minded one. In this situation, old mindset kings can take advantage of the environment and will have more power and chance to rule the country for longer time besides inhibiting the progress of the nation .
Despite all the difficulties people in Niger face, have succeeded in keeping their traditions and culture alive. One example of this is the Gerewol Festival, which has been celebrated by the people in the Tahoua region for centuries. The weeklong festival is a ritual courtship competition held by the Wodaabe Fula people each year. During Gerewol, young men wear traditional face paint and elaborate ornamental dress. They then line up to dance and sing in order to attract the young women in the village. It’s basically a male beauty contest!
The Wodaabe people value height and bright white teeth and eyes in men, so the male beauty contestants will roll their eyes and bare their teeth during the dance to impress the young women who are evaluating them. The judging is tense, with the young women walking down the line of dancers, poker faced in accordance with the Wodaabe pulaku, or code of behavior. Then woman each taps her favorite man, and everyone rushes in to celebrate and congratulate the winners – being selected is a huge honor. The women then return to their camps and wait. If the chosen men like them, they follow.
Thanks to documentary films and National Geographic articles about Guerewol the ritual has become more widely known in recent years. Occasionally, foreign tourists can be seen taking in this unique courtship ritual.
Since the festival can only be held if there is enough water to support the hundreds of people that the festivities attract, Guerewol is not held during times of severe drought. More recently, instability caused by the insurgency of Boko Haram has resulted in less frequent Guerewol festivals. Forunately, the traditional dance can still be seen at tourists hotels in eastern Niger where it is performed by troops of Wodaabe. Hopefully, these staged performances will help to preserve the tradition for future generations of Nigeriens.