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.
I know that, like me, you have a strong connection to Niger and its people. You know first-hand how great the need is and how few resources are at hand.
For most people, Niger is just an overlooked spot on a map of Africa. It’s confused with Nigeria, lumped together with other West African countries, or simply just ignored.
But, we are not most people. We have connections to the country that run deep – through our work and experiences. You and I, and all of us who are part of the Friends of Niger community, understand what life is like in a country that has long been one of the poorest in the world. We know the humanitarian toll this poverty takes.
Friends of Niger is a powerful way for each of us to continue to support effective, life-changing humanitarian work in the country even after our time there has ended.
Famine and drought. Health emergencies. Educational limitations.
Niger and its people have faced these crises for decades. But, in the past year, violence pressing Niger from all sides has made the situation even more dire.
ISIS, Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, and the Arawad rebellion threaten villages in the north. To the west, Malian rebels have sent a flood of refugees into Niger. To the southeast, Boko Haram have raped, pillaged, and plundered their way into the country, kidnapping young girls and killing villagers who get in their way. Each of these groups has made violent incursions into Niger in the past year.
Niger needs us.
Our health, education, economic development, and humanitarian projects are more important than they’ve ever been. You can help ensure these programs reach the people who need them most. Please help with a generous contribution to Friends of Niger today.
Over the past 30 years we have accomplished so much to help improve the health, security, and lives of thousands of Nigeriens in villages throughout the country.
But, for every village that one of our programs reaches, we know there are hundreds of others that need us.
Friends of Niger has created unique relationships that allow us to work directly with Nigerien NGOs as we help implement effective and sustainable programs.
In the business world this would be called “cutting out the middle man.” By working directly with the Nigeriens who will carry out these projects, we are able to build successful, cost-effective programs that can be replicated and expanded into hundreds of other villages.
So what’s stopping us?
The only thing that slows us down is the cost of expanding our programs. Simply put, Friends of Niger doesn’t have the financial capacity to grow all the projects that are urgently needed.
Let me tell you about just one of them … the Moringa Garden Project.
Moringa, you probably know, is a drought-resistant plant that provides a powerful range of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients – from vitamins A, B, and C, to protein and iron.
This plant, easily grown in West Africa, provides a way to curb the epidemic of malnutrition among Nigerien children and pregnant and nursing mothers.
With guidance from CONUSA (Conseil des Nigeriens aux USA), Friends of Niger reached out to health officers in the village of Sakawa and helped them establish a community moringa garden program.
It’s a simple project and one that cost us less than $2,000 to establish. But, that modest investment has helped provide necessary nutrients to more than 2,300 young women and nearly 600 infants in the past year and will continue to sustain itself into the future.
But, success in this one village also starkly illustrates our current limitations.
Moustapha Harou, a community health officer in Sakawa, has updated us regularly on the success of the program, the women and infants it has helped, and its acceptance by both the populace and the local authorities. In a recent update, he wrote:
“All of this was realized thanks to the willingness that animates the members of your noble and august association which did not spare any effort in coming to help this community which expresses its gratitude for you in spite of the thousands of kilometers that separate us.”
In a follow-up message just a few weeks ago, Moustapha told us he is currently working with the chiefs of five villages who already have offered small plots of land that are available for new moringa gardens.
But, that’s just the start. Moustapha has identified 32 villages that need – and could sustain – our Moringa Garden Project.
To provide this program to 32 additional villages – reaching thousands more mothers, infants, and children – would cost around $64,000.
I have enclosed for you some recent photos of our Moringa Project in Sakawa.
It is a vital, life-saving project. It is effective and sustainable. It needs to be expanded. And, Friends of Niger is uniquely suited to help the project grow.
And, that’s just one project.
We are also currently working with Tamesna Center for Nomadic Life – a school dedicated to education of children without requiring them to settle down – to support a project focused on the care and management of a goat herd. Based out of the rural commune of Ingall, the Tamesna school boards the children of nomads who have built the dorms.
While the teachers’ salaries are paid by the Nigerien government, food for the students depends on donations. This goat herd will begin to provide food for the children and lead to long-term sustainability – rare for nomadic schools.
We can grow our Moringa Garden Project, our goat and sheep husbandry projects, our educational efforts, our programs to help empower women and girls, and our other important work …
If we have the funds we need.
If we have the support of friends like you who understand, more than anyone, why this work in Niger is so urgent and so important.
If we can act now.
In 1978, as a new Peace Corps volunteer, I was sent to Niger and spent the next two years in Zinder working in a girls’ school, teaching English, and coaching sports. When I left the country in 1980, I knew that I would never – could never – leave it and its people behind. It had become too important to me.
We come from different experiences in Niger – different times, different regions or villages, different projects.
But, we come together as one in our dedication to the resiliency and strength of Niger and its people. We come together through Friends of Niger so that we may still be a presence. So we may continue to help make a difference.
I was honored to be asked to become the President of Friends of Niger this year. Our board is a vibrant one and includes former Peace Corps Volunteers, those who lived in Niger with the Boston University program, others who have visited Niger, and Nigeriens living here in the United States.
Each of us is dedicated to continuing – and expanding – our work in Niger. I’m grateful that you have chosen to be part of this work as well.
We have accomplished much – and will accomplish even more – together.
At a time when many humanitarian efforts in the region are being slowed or curbed due to threats of violence, we have the ability to reach out to, and help, the people of Niger directly.
There is much that we must do. There is much we can accomplish. Especially now.
I hope that we can count on you to join me in this urgent and life-changing work.
Please help with a generous contribution today. I promise you, it will make a difference.
With your support we will help not just one life, not just one town or one village, but many. Thank you so much for your help and generosity.
P.S. Your tax-deductible contribution will help support the Moringa Garden Project in Sakawa, the goat herd in Ingall, and our other village-based programs that are currently underway. Plus, your contribution will also allow us to take these successful programs and roll them out to dozens – even hundreds – of other towns and villages.
Please help today.
You may make your donation through our secure PayPal site by clicking the DONATE button.
Or make your check payable to Friends of Niger and send to:
Friends of Niger
P.O. Box 1999
Brookline MA 02446-0017
Does your organization have an idea for a great project in Niger and need funding to get it off the ground?
FON has developed a new, simplified form that non-profit organizations and grassroots groups can use to apply for funding from Friends of Niger. To access the form and view instructions, please visit our Projects page, on our web site at http://www.friendsofniger.org/projects.