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Archive of the Republic of Niger (AREN) at Boston University

How it Evolved. By John Hutchison

The proposal to establish AREN (Archive de la République du Niger) has evolved out of the long term relationship between the Republic of Niger and the USA beginning after Niger’s independence, and the advent of the Peace Corps there. This was followed much later by the relationship, linkage, and then student exchange between the Université Abdou Moumouni (UAM) and Boston University (BU).

This latter relationship began in the 1980s, when BU Professor John Hutchison served as a Fulbright Lecturer in Linguistics and Kanuri Language Studies at the UAM during 1984-85. At the end of that year, he and the BU African Studies Center, with the assistance of Dr. Jennifer Yanco, a Nigerienist linguist and former Niger Peace Corps Volunteer, applied for and gained a 3-year USIS University Linkage Grant (1985-88) for the exchange of faculty members between BU and UAM. This exchange was rooted in the areas of languages, bilingual education, linguistics, and education. It linked faculties of education/pedagogy and departments of languages and linguistics.

Prof. Karen Boatman was one of the BU School of Education professors who visited Niger. She had the foresight and vision to recognize the importance of proposing student exchange and study abroad between BU and UAM. This next stage in our collaboration resulted in the Niger study abroad program which came to be directed by Susan Rosenfeld. It made it possible for BU students to spend a semester or more in Niger working in internships, coursework and the study of Nigerien languages and cultures in an international development context. The program endured for a quarter of a century, from 1987 until 2011.

The long-term relationships that grew out of these collaborative activities and programs have had an enormous impact on the lives and careers of the Americans and the Nigeriens who participated in them. Those who served as Peace Corps volunteers over its nearly 50 years in Niger, as well as the many BU students who did their study abroad there, have benefited from the wisdom of their co-workers, professors, colleagues and friends in Niger. The result is a body of human resources capable of facilitating change in a wide range of mutually beneficial ways. So today when we come together to join our two countries, our institutions, and one another, in this project of establishing AREN at Boston University, we are establishing a forum which brings together many stakeholders, and also which has the potential to facilitate collaborative efforts and the sharing of knowledge. From both sides of the Atlantic, AREN will make it possible to connect for example both Nigerien non-profit organizations and American non-profit organizations, and it will be conducive to collaboration in fundraising and project development that can be mutually beneficial.

This Archive was inaugurated by the Nigerien President in April 2015; photographs from that inauguration event can be viewed here:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/123460528@N03/sets/72157651729968556/

Check out that portion available online at: http://www.bu.edu/library/african-studies/aren/.  A link is available on that page to a form you can fill out if you are interested in contributing to the archive.   If you have any questions, please contact Beth Restrick, African Studies Librarian (brestric “at” bu.edu).  Consider looking at the larger African Studies collection at: http://www.bu.edu/library/african-studies/

Support For Relief Efforts In Eastern Niger With Kirker Foundation Of Niger, May 2019

Submitted by Phyllis Dichter Forbes.

In February, FON approved a project with the Kirker Foundation of Niger (KF/N) for $4,000 to help them deliver critically needed medicines and medical supplies, strengthen KF/N advocacy for health services in Niger, and increase local government inputs to promote long-term sustainability of KF/N efforts. These funds will help with the internal Niger costs of clearing the first MAP International shipment of medicines of 2019, over $20 million of medications including antibiotics, eyeglasses and accessories, vitamins as well as medicine for cancer and heart disease, and delivering the medicines to approximately 12 hospitals in Niger. It is due to arrive in Niamey in early May. Just to provide some context, two MAP shipments of medicines in 2018 provided one third of all medications used by the hospitals in Niger.

While we are supporting KF/N in this first MAP shipment through the FON grant, a number of former Niger PCV’s have been helping finance other shipments in earlier years. KAMRA, the US organization that arranges for US donors for the shipments, has been very proud of the RPCV response and wanted us to let everyone know that for each $100 donated, $280,000 in medicines will be made available to the people of Niger this year, a very impressive value for our contribution.

There is a lot of good news coming from the impressive work of the Kirker Foundation, but there is unfortunately still bad news. The good news is that KF/N is helping the local hospital and school in Maine organize kitchens that will serve one meal a day to hospital patients and one meal a day to school children using fortified rice-soy meal packets provided by Rise Against Hunger(RAH), another US organization that works in the poorest and most needy countries. The first two kitchens will have enough packets to provide one meal a day to 400 Nigeriens for up to six months. Once these kitchens are fully running, RAH hopes to expand shipments to set up other kitchens in the hospitals and schools in the Diffa Department and later elsewhere in Niger.

But equally impressive is the work KF/N and KAMRA have done to address health needs of Nigerien women by supporting a shipment of medical equipment and supplies from MedShare to equip a new operating room at the Maternity Hospital in Niamey. When the new OR is set up, Conscience International, a US NGO,very impressed by the seriousness of KF/N and the Ministry of Health, will be sending a team of surgeons to Niamey to train Nigerien providers from hospitals throughout Niger in fistula repair. Fistula is a devastating condition frequently experienced by Nigerien women as a result of early and frequent childbearing and a contributor to the high maternal morbidity and mortality rates in Niger.

The FON grant was also aimed at strengthening KF/N advocacy for health services and increasing local government inputs. KF/N has done well on meeting both objectives. In 2018, the Governor of Tillabery contributed funding to transport medicines from a shipment from Niamey to Tillabery. Transport costs were valued at US $1,000. KF/N is seeking similar local cost-sharing for the currently approved shipment, again from the Governor of Tillabery, as well as from other hospitals throughout Niger where shipments will be targeted.

The bad news is that no single week goes by without Boko Haram attacks in Niger, with more than 80 Nigeriens killed in the Diffa region in March alone. Just last week, Boko Haram attacked the village of Tam, only 10 miles from Maine-Soroa, decapitating the village chief and taking several hostages. Doctors Without Border office in Maine was burned to the ground on

April 27, 2019 and we are unsure how many casualties were involved. The situation in the Tillaberi area is also deteriorating.

The resilience of Nigeriens is amazing, and as disheartening as it is for all of us to see the reports of the continuing problems confronting this poor nation, we cannot give up on them. We should all take pride in the leadership that some Nigeriens are showing in the face of overwhelming odds, and to the extent that we can, we need to continue to find ways to support them.

Doctors Without Borders Office burned in Maine Soroa, April 27, 2019

Barbara Jean Kirker

Friends of Niger are terribly sad to learn of the recent passing of Barbara Kirker. A Niger RPCV serving in Diffa in the the 1960s, Barbara and her husband, Dr. William Kirker, established the Maine-Soroa hospital (not to mention Africare), forever impacting the lives of many Nigeriens.

His Excellency Maman S. Sidikou, the Ambassador of Niger to the United States, has these kind words to say about Mrs. Kirker in this open letter to Dr. William Kirker:

Dear Dr. William Kirker,

The Niger Embassy staff and the Nigerien community in Washington, D.C. are very sad to hear about Barbara’s passing last week.

We will remember her as a deeply caring and generous person. She went out of her way to reach out our people, back when she was a Peace Corp Volunteer.

Many among our fellow-citizens had the privilege of working closely with her in improving our grass root communities’ life in Maine-Soroa. She was truly open-minded and generous and many children have benefited enormously from her experience and talents.

Barbara will be remembered fondly and with deep gratitude for all the excellent work she did in my country. She was a true friend of Niger. That the Kirker family’s name is so closely associated to everything good that happens to our people (including the great work AFRICARE is doing to strengthen the resilience of the most vulnerable in Niger) is testimony to Barbara’s dedication to service to Humanity.

May her gentle soul rest in peace and may God grant you, William Jr. and your entire family the fortitude to bear this immense loss.

Kind regards

Ambassador Maman S. Sidikou

We offer our condolences to the Kirker family and to all who came to know this amazing woman.

Niger RPCV Leslie Natzke Interviewed on WBEZ Worldview

As a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger in the late 80’s, Leslie Natzke noticed that there were very few young women and girls going to school. Since then, she’s launched a non-profit aimed at developing leadership skills in young women in West Africa to empower them to become pillars in their communities. Natzke introduces us to her organization, Expanding Lives.

Listen to the WBEZ Worldview interview here on SoundClound.

Full URL: https://soundcloud.com/wbez-worldview/u-s-considers-military-action
Note: yes, the URL is correct; the WBEZ segment includes multiple stories, some of which relate to military action in Syria. The Niger story begins at the 35:00 minute mark.

NYT Report On Medical Progress In Danja

The New York Times reports in a recent article on the progress made by a group of surgeons — with the support of Times readers — who insisted on finding a way to help young women suffering from fistula.

There is nothing more wrenching than to see a teenage girl shamed by a fistula, and I’ve written before about the dreams of a couple of surgeons to build this fistula center here in Danja. Times readers responded by contributing more than $500,000 to the Worldwide Fistula Fund to make the hospital a reality. Last year, the Danja Fistula Center opened.

Full URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/14/opinion/sunday/kristof-where-young-women-find-healing-and-hope.html

Niger Selected By The Board Of The Millennium Challenge Corporation As Eligible For A Compact

The Millennium Challenge Corporation hosted its quarterly town hall meeting on the 20th December 2012. At this meeting, the Board selected Niger for the first time as a country eligible for a Compact program with MCC. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) created by the U.S. Congress in January 2004 is a U.S. foreign aid agency that is fighting against global poverty. MCC has two forms of grants: Compacts which are large 5 year grants awarded to countries that meet the criteria and Threshold which are small grants for countries close to meeting the criteria.

Niger scored 12 green MCC performance indicators and has maintained green the Governance indicators for the last 2 years.

The MCC Board recognized the country’s efforts in good governance, the engagement and commitment of the Government of Niger in the fight against corruption, the respect of political rights, civil liberties, freedom of information and the adoption of policy reforms to strengthen economic freedom. The Board was particularly impressed and congratulated the authorities of Niger for their engagement in environmental protection.

The MCC report on Niger concludes:

Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world but has relatively strong policy performance, as indicated by two consecutive years passing the MCC indicators. Scorecards for Niger can be found athttp://www.mcc.gov/scorecards. In 2011, Niger was the first country to demonstrate that with sufficient political will, countries can restore their MCC eligibility. Niger’s constitutional reform, clean and competitive elections, and peaceful transfer of power to civilian government prompted MCC to reinstate Niger’s threshold eligibility last year. Since that time, Niger has pursued reforms related to democratic and economic governance and contributed to efforts to promote stability in the region. Niger has been a strong MCC partner in its threshold program, operating a dedicated program and policy analysis unit through both elected governments and even during its period of suspension. Niger is currently finalizing its constraints to growth analysis, an exercise that forms the basis of MCC’s compact development process, and this will now shift from a threshold program assessment tool to part of the compact development process. Capacity constraints may impact the timeline for the compact development process.

Special Thanks

Many thanks to James T. Thomson, Niger RPCV ’64 and FON member, who has worked on many development projects all over Africa. Jamie led the charge in drafting a letter to the MCC for the FON board, urging the MCC to approve the compact grant. His efforts will have positive impact for years to come.

Additional Media Coverage

The Patriotic Vanguard:
http://www.thepatrioticvanguard.com/spip.php?article6850

African Manager:
http://www.africanmanager.com/site_eng/detail_article.php?art_id=19476

 

RPCV Health Survey

Special notice for former Peace Corps volunteers.

The National Peace Corps Association is assisting the group Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers in circulating a survey which seeks to assess both the scope of debilitating injury or illness over the years, and the challenges Returned Peace Corps Volunteers have faced in receiving the care, attention, and support they need and deserve.

The group is interested in hearing from all RPCVs, including those who had no medical concerns during service. After you have taken the survey, please share it with 5 – 10 other fellow RPCVs and ask them to do the same.

Acting Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet is expressing her commitment to ensure that sick or injured RPCVs receive the help and support they deserve. Read her statement on the NPCA site.

Direct link to survey: http://www.healthjusticeforpeacecorpsvolunteers.org/survey/survey.html