By Barbara Goldberg
When I was in Niger a month ago with a team of Wells Bring Hope volunteers, we visited about 15 villages in the areas of Maradi, Zinder and Tillaberi. Although we were there to visit villages where we had drilled wells, we couldn’t help but bear witness to what was happening regarding the food supply.
In mid-January, they weren’t calling it a famine—yet. But it was coming, there was no doubt of that. Food storage bins were very low and the drought, again, another year of drought, was clearly evident.
I’m proud to say that our partner, World Vision, who does our well drilling, was doing their best to address the food crisis. In one village, Miyaki, a village where we drilled a well and visited in January 2009, there were nutritionists giving out peanut-based food packets for the children and educating mothers on how to use them and how to help their children in this very difficult time.
For the poorest of the poor in Niger, the second poorest country in the world, World Vision has a Food for Work program that is in operation to provide people with needed food by having them work the land. Their goal was to keep people sustained in their villages, preventing the migration that occurs when food storage bins are depleted and people have nowhere else to turn but to the nearby city, hoping that someone will provide for them. We talked to Doctors without Borders people we met and they too, were gearing up for a tough time. All of the relief agencies working in Niger were in the same crisis mode.
Today, February 19, 2012, you can read about what we experienced in the CNN newsfeed. What they are writing about is what we saw a month ago. Here’s what they say: “Nearly half of Niger does not have enough to eat. The 5.4 million people struggling to stay alive are part of a wider crisis affecting at least 10 million people across the swath across Africa that borders the Sahara, known as the Sahel. This is the third time in the last decade the people of the Sahel have faced severe food shortages.”