Help us respond to the food crisis in Niger>>
I liked Imam Abdowlaye Boukary as soon as I met him. He was about my age, calm, gentle, quietly spoken, with an easy smile. I met him outside the tiny shelter he was sharing with his wife and two children. To call it basic would be an understatement: it was built out of sticks, plastic sheets and cardboard boxes.
The Imam told me that he and his family had left their village because of a disastrous harvest. Today they are living in a makeshift camp on the outskirts of Niamey, Niger’s capital.
“We didn’t have to leave in previous seasons,” he said, “because we managed to harvest some beans. This year there was nothing. I am very attached to my village, and there is no way we would have left if we hadn’t been forced to.
“My village is 95km from here. My wife and I started off on foot with the kids. You can find people who drive you some of the way, but it took us almost two days. Now we have been here for four months. We didn’t have anywhere else to go.” Continue reading
The fighting has forced 200,000 people from their homes
We are sorry to report that a local office of our sister agency Caritas Mali has been destroyed by fighting in northern Mali. The following article first appeared on the Caritas Internationalis website:
Caritas Mali says its local office in Gao in northern Mali was destroyed along with the local church after Tuareg rebels seized the city at the weekend.
Despite the conflict in the north and a coup last month, Caritas Mali says its operations providing desperately needed food aid to the rest of the country continue.
The Tuareg rebels have seized three regional capitals in as many days. The main rebel group is the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). They are operating alongside the Islamist group Ansar Edine, who have links to Al Qaeda’s north African branch.
Fr Jean-Jacques, director of Caritas Gao said, “Caritas staff fled Gao on Saturday. We learned from our guard today that the centre and the church compound have been destroyed.
“We have received calls from the small Catholic community left in Gao. They are now in hiding, fearing for their lives.” Continue reading
Filed under CAFOD, Mali, Niger
Refugees from Mali: “the fighting in Mali today is a direction consequence of what happened in Libya,” says CAFOD partner Raymond Yoro
When the UK and other countries decided to protect the Libyan rebels and assist their revolution a year ago, the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and other leaders promised that the lessons of Iraq would be learned; and that plans would be in place to deal with the aftermath.
Those promises are ringing hollow in Mali and Niger today.
It was shocking to learn that the President of Mali, Amadou Toumani Touré, had been ousted in a military coup. After all, for twenty years, Mali has been recognised as one of the more successful democracies in Africa.
The soldiers who carried out the coup say that they did so because of Touré’s handling of the Tuareg rebellion in the north of the country – a rebellion that many in Africa, including the ousted President, attribute to the impact of the Libyan revolution. Continue reading
Filed under CAFOD, Mali, Niger
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During the last few days, I’ve had the chance to ask several people in Niger how this year’s food crisis compares with previous ones. They’ve all said the same thing: it’s the worst one they can remember.
Mintou, a grandmother living in a village about three hours’ drive from the capital, said: “There was one year when it was very bad, which we call ‘kantchakalague’. Maybe we can compare this year that that one. But I think this year is worse.”
“Does ‘kantchakalgue’ mean famine?” I asked Tchadi from our partner CADEV, who was translating.
“No, not famine,” he said. “Literally, it means tiredness, thinness, a time when people are thin and animals are overwhelmed. A time when even if you kill an animal, you will find no meat inside. It’s a special word that people here give to 1984. We will have to see if they give this year a name as well.”
Fergus Conmee, the head of our Humanitarian teams for Africa, writes:
When I talk to friends about food and drought crises in Africa, two questions always come up: why does it keep on happening? And why does the world always wait until people are dying to act?
Dealing with the latest crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa – the semi arid region encompassing Niger, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso and Senegal – I am facing the first of those questions again, but hoping I will not have to face the second.
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The Sahel is an ecologically fragile region in which – even in a ‘normal’ year – 40 per cent of children under five years old suffer from chronic malnutrition. In this French-speaking region, the people accept the ‘Soudure’ as part of life: the annual ‘hunger gap’ between one year’s food stocks running out and the next year’s harvest coming through.
Some years, when food stocks are especially low or the harvest is especially poor, the hunger gap becomes a hunger crisis. We have seen this suffering in the Sahel before, most recently in 2005, 2008 and 2010, and the warning signs are flashing again now. Continue reading