Category Archives: News

News Stories

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.

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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.

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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 at 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:

African Manager:


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.

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Niger Shows “A Spectacular Jump” In The 2011-2012 Press Freedom Index

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.

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Hunger Crisis Raises Fears Of More Child Marriages

A recent story from the Washington Post highlights how the current food crisis leads to more child marriages in Niger, where the rate of child marriage is already the highest in the world.

From the author, Sudarsan Raghavan:

Niger has the world’s highest rate of child marriage, with roughly one out of two girls marrying before age 15, some as young as 7. As a hunger crisis affects millions here and across the Sahel region of West Africa, aid workers are concerned that struggling parents might marry off their daughters even earlier for the dowries they fetch, including animals and cash, to help the families survive.
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MercyCorps Focuses On Struggles In Niger

We are all concerned about the growing food crisis in Niger, and MercyCorps is ramping up their efforts not only to raise awareness of this dire situation, but to provide direct assistance that is greatly needed in the Sahel.

Some featured articles include:

Cassandra Nelson’s latest blog entry describes the impact the hunger crisis is having on children.

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In this video Nelson gives an overview of the crisis and how MercyCorps is beginning to help.

Visual Impact

gallery of images showing the impact MercyCorps is having in Niger

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The Ongoing Crisis

Read entries from the ongoing food crisis in Niger

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Read all the details about MercyCorps’ programs in Niger.

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You can help!

Donate to MercyCorps to help fight the Niger food crisis.

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