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.
Political commentary on the growing US military presence in Niger:
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.
Ambassador Maman S. Sidikou
We offer our condolences to the Kirker family and to all who came to know this amazing woman.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
Reporters Without Borders has released its 2011-2012 ranking of Press Freedom around the globe, with Niger showing the biggest improvement of any country in the world.
From the full version of the press release:
Niger (29th) rose 75 places in the index, the biggest leap by any country in the world this year. The economic environment for Niger’s media is very precarious but they are free and benefit from favourable legislation. Media freedom violations have virtually disappeared. The improvement has been seen in both concrete and symbolic measures. At the end of 2011, Mahamadou Issoufou, who was elected president in the spring, became the first African head of state to sign the Declaration of Table Mountain, thereby undertaking to promote media freedom.