by Vanesa Martin
The implications of the violence wrought by extremist group Boko Haram to the nations surrounding Nigeria, including Chad and Niger, reach far beyond civilian casualties and displacement. It is no secret that rape is an unfortunately common weapon of war, and Niger is no exception. Sexual violence against women is part of Boko Haram’s plundering strategy, and it can provoke psychological and social trauma; women that have been raped are frequently ostracized by their families and neighbors despite it having been against their will. Niger is also unique in that it is the country with the highest fertility and infant mortality rate in the world (with about 7 births per woman and 101 deaths per 1000 births), so the consequences that this reality has on the population are only exacerbated by the violence being experienced there today. It also means that more and more women, young and old, are pregnant and being forced to give birth in the bush or on the streets while they are fleeing from the conflict. Needless to say, these are less than sanitary and clinically sterile conditions for both the mother and her offspring, and the health of both is jeopardized tremendously.
Currently, hygiene kits are being dispersed by many aid organizations to the people that are most at risk, which are typically women and their children. It is a short-term solution, though, and is not enough. It is also difficult to reach all of the people that are currently being displaced, as many of them are hiding in the bush. What could, in fact, be more helpful to these individuals is to build wells in as many communities as is possible so that those fleeing can have access to potable water in the next community or village. Wells Bring Hope is a great way for anyone to contribute to the mitigation and the eventual solution to these crises and the consequences they bring. We partner with communities to build wells and work with women to empower them in a society where there are seemingly insurmountable obstacles between them and their self-sufficiency. Any help can be a critical start for the success of someone in Niger, especially to those women that are braving the perils of giving birth outside of a clinic or hospital. Water is where the solution begins.